In twelve essays on such diverse Smithsonian Institution holdings as the Hope Diamond, the Wright Flyer, wooden Zuni carvings, and the Greensboro, North Carolina Woolworth lunch counter that became a symbol of the Civil Rights movement, Exhibiting Dilemmas explores a wide range of social, political, and ethical questions faced by museum curators in their roles as custodians of culture.
Focusing on the challenges posed by the transformation of exhibitions from object-driven “cabinets of curiosities” to idea-driven sources of education and entertainment, the contributors—all Smithsonian staff members—provide a lively and sometimes provocative discussion of the increasingly complex enterprise of acquiring and displaying objects in a museum setting.
“This book is a courageous and candid affirmation of the educational and interpretive responsibilities of history museums. . . . The authors provide eloquent recognition of the need to negotiate a popular yet thoroughly professional path between history and memory, celebration, and commemoration.”—Michael Kammen, Cornell University
“A cultural benchmark. . . . Each [contributor] faces the challenge of bringing an institution founded on the Eurocentric values and colonialist viewpoints of the nineteenth century into line with the values and perspectives of our present multicultural society.”—Kansas City Star