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The Museum

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Member Reviews

~ 4.5 stars~ 

I read The Museum: A Short History of Crisis and Resilience out of personal interest and happened to get lucky that I could review it as an arc for Netgalley as well! As an aspiring art historian and avid museum-attendee, I found this book absolutely fascinating. It was certainly meant for a specific audience (re: me), but accessible in terms of language for the most part. Here are some of my many thoughts! 

Beginning with the turn of the nineteenth century, Redman traces the history of the museum in America, highlighting moments of crisis as examples of how cultural institutions have adapted over the past century. I have to point out the incredile amount of research that must have went into writing this, because it was thorough! He touches on a variety of topics, including the lasting effects of the Great Depression, WWII, and the “culture wars” centered in NYC in the 1970s. In presenting these topics chronologically, I found the narrative easy to understand. I found the details about WWII to be particularly compelling, especially how museums came to be battlefields of culture, utilized by the American government as spaces to wage their wars and influence nationalistic thought. Over and over, Redman points out that museums are not and never have been neutral spaces; they have always been engaged in the political and moral debates of the current day. This sentiment will stay with me long after reading The Museum and will certainly continue to inform my studies. 

In the last section of the book, the author draws attention to two of the crises that critically effect museums today in America: the Covid-19 pandemic and the harsh reality of racial inequality/the history of colonialism in the museum space. When placed in context with the rest of the book, I was struck by the effectiveness of Redman’s argument. He admits that while it is impossible to predict and prevent current and future crises, the museum–and those who are passionate about it–have consistently displayed an aptitude for resilience and change. 

My short review doesn’t begin to touch on all the fantastic points made in this book. I would certainly recommend this to someone interested in the history of the museum or art history in general. 

~Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a free eArc of The Museum: A Short History of Crisis and Reslience. All opinions are my own!~
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Interesting book on the history of museums and how historical events impacted the role museums played in society. It's written in an easy and straightforward manner that is quite engaging. If one has an interest in the topic, this is definitely a worthwhile read.
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Much better than the usual Publish or Perish offerings, but then, I geek museums and history in general. And, too, some of my very favorite NYC, DC, and Chicago offerings are all too well represented in this study. The major thing missing is visual representation of any sort. The publisher's blurb is a good teaser but hardly comprehensive.
I requested and received a free temporary ebook copy from NYU Press via NetGalley.
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as someone who has worked in heritage (and has studied aspects of museology at University)  I was excited to read this book. Especially as it offers insight into the challenges (& crises) that lie at the feet of American museums. 

Redman writes a well detailed account of multiple major events in light of their impact on major American institutions/museums. This book is a must read for anyone who wants an introduction to the life of a museum, and I could see it fit in well as a reference book, rather than a light beach read.
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From the book description- “The Museum explores the concepts of “crisis” as it relates to museums, and how these historic institutions have dealt with challenges ranging from depression and war to pandemic and philosophical uncertainty. A captivating examination of crisis moments in US museum history from the early years of the twentieth century to the present day, The Museum offers inspiration in the resilience and longevity of America’s most prized cultural institutions.”

I am an avid museum goer so I was interested in a book like this. This was an interesting book to read. I learned a few things about US museums that I didn’t know before. Would love it was more global and included other famous museums. And personally I didn’t quite like the style of writing but the content was nice.
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“If museums have been historically and continue to be one of the most popular educational resources for the public in the United States, then how they have responded to past challenges matters a great deal in shaping our contemporary cultural landscape.”

Looks at events that have affected museums from WW1 and the Spanish Flu to COVID. Important discussions on museums stealing and displaying artifacts and human remains from other cultures, practicing colonialism. Also talks about the sexism and racism that has been part of museum history, efforts of museums to adapt during times of war and illness, and their attempts to both reflect and improve society’s values/beliefs.

The book focuses on the biggest US museums so it’s by no means comprehensive. I enjoyed learning about the 1970s art strike which I had never heard of before and the controversy over displaying the “Enola Gay” at the Smithsonian (plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945). 

The book is written more like a dissertation or an academic paper I’d have to read for a course. Most ideas are not fleshed out and are just surface level suggestions. In the acknowledgements, Redman thanks the reviewers for helping strengthen the arguments he made but I don’t see that.

He used an example from the museum scene in Black Panther to illustrate his point around the Black Lives Matter movement. He completely missed the point of the scene and some key moments as well as using the wrong character in the Example. It may seem like a minor mistake or one not worth mentioning but this “small” mistake made me question the rest of the research and what other mistakes/inaccuracies were in the book.

I love museums and history so I had high hopes for this book and was fascinated in the first 2 chapters and the last 2 chapters but the rest was dry and the pacing was all over the place. I think it’s really a book meant for museum curators and those in the museum industry, rather than a book for general enjoyment.

Overall I would have enjoyed it more if some chapters were fleshed out in their arguments, as well as being more accessible.
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Thank you NetGalley, Samuel J. Redman, and New York University Press for providing me with an ARC of this book in return for an honest review.

This is a great book for a starting point in regards to content. It mentions many events throughout history, in chronological order for the most part, and their influence on American museums. Events include World War I, World War II, movements throughout the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. Then he discusses more current events that have provided trials to museums such as, 9/11, the recession of 2009, various hurricanes that cause major flooding and damage to parts of the United States, and then, of course, the Pandemic.

With the length of the book, it would be impossible to cover all of these events in-depth so it’s good for figuring out where you’re interests lie and research them further through other readings. Based on this, I believe that this book would be an excellent resource for students and professors to use in museum studies classes or archaeology based classes that deal with ethics and museums.
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I've been fascinated by museums for as long as I can remember so reading this book about the challenges so often overlooked by the museum going public immediately peaked my interest. In theory, this book should have been amazing. It is timely to release a book about how museums are struggling during a time in which they are struggling once again from wars, protests, and pandemics.

However, it doesn't quite reach its potential. It felt as if I was reading a dissertation rather than a book. I found myself wishing for more fleshed out arguments in certain chapters, only to be rushed to another level of research that didn't need to be as long as it was. The acknowledgements mention that there were several beta readers who helped strengthen arguments and help confirm research. I did not see this. In fact at one point where the author briefly touches on how the Black Lives Matter movement is impacting museums today, he uses the museum scene from Black Panther as a metaphor to strengthen his argument. This would have been fantastic if he had gotten the proper character and understood the point of the scene. I've reached out to the publisher who assured me that this will be fixed in future editions, but unfortunately such a glaringly obvious mistake made me question all the research done in the entire book.

E-arc via netgalley.
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This was a really thoughtful, well-written book about the role museums play in society and the challenges facing them. Samuel Redman examines how museums dealt with culture shifts and two world wars, amongst other challenges, in the 20th century. This would be a great book for someone curious not just about art and artifacts, but how they are preserved and presented to the public.
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I received an electronic ARC via NetGalley.

This is an interesting and engaging little book on the challenges faced by American museums in the 20th century, and the ways that museums responded to these challenges. Arranged generally in chronological order, the book deals with the impact of a number of major events (including the Spanish flu pandemic, the world wars, and the 1970 art strike) on museum policy and priorities.

It does primarily focus on a few major museums, and is by no means a complete history of Ameriacn museums in the 20th century, but it makes no claim to being truly complete.
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Un detallado y muy bien documentado recorrido por los museos de Estados Unidos. Expone magistralmente la forma en que los museos han afrontado crisis que van desde el incendio del Smithsonian Institute en 1865, pasando por ambas guerras mundiales hasta llegar a la actualidad con la pandemia de Covid-19.
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Having been an avid Museum attender all my life, I have mostly visited small local museums built around a town's One Big Claim to Fame, as well as having been lucky enough to visit larger cities to see a wider range of exhibits and subjects under social review.

Mr. Redman's book takes the idea of the "museum" and gives it a foundation - a collection, curated display, objects to view, study and from which conclusions about the people who made them, and how they were featured in the social web within which they were caught. From there he discusses, using an impressive depth of knowledge, experience, resources and clearly thousands of hours of research, the important position museums have held, and should continue to hold within our American, and Global societies.

In the beginning, a museum was just a showplace, a repository. It has become so much more than that - the chapters walk the reader through general world events, and how they reflected the political and social goals of their stakeholders - such as "war, cold, unrest, strikes and epidemics." WR Hearst's efforts and treasures led to a lifelong association with museums, which developed into organizational practices which are reviewed, as are effects of WWs I & II, the 70's, 80's and 90's, with their changes in developing cultural and societal sensitivities. We need to see truth in our institutions - museums, libraries, etc. - not just what we want to see. The book carefully and thoroughly considers the role of museums in the past, but mostly leans into the future, and who and how museums can serve the future and the future citizens of this world.

This is a thinking book, not a coffee table book for checking out beautiful collections. It takes itself and the reader very seriously, and presents its case superbly.

A Sincere Thanks to Samuel J. Redman, his mother (see dedication), NYU Press and NetGalley for an ARC to read and review. #TheMuseum #NetGalley
Publication date: 5 Apr 2022
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Samuel Redman's The Museum: A Short History of Crisis and Resilience is a primer on the challenges museums in the United States have faced from the 19th century to the present.

Divided into six sections with separate introduction and conclusion; Redman covers the effect of the two world wars, 1970s strikes, the culture wars, and other topics as they relate to museums. The bulk of the book is concerned with American ideas of what a museum is and should be, particularly in the past 50 years. And as museums are repositories of collections, how those collections are organized, displayed and interpreted has changed overtime.

From page 175, in describing the process of creating the book Redman notes: "Given the chaotic nature of the time this book was written, it is perhaps not surprising that a book originally imagined as being about the past, present, and possible future of museums in the United States soon became more focused on exploring the concept of crisis as it related to these same cultural institutions."

Redman is an engaging author, not overwhelming the reader with data. Instead he offers concise summaries of events and how different institutions responded. I found the last chapter, "Museum Crisis in Recent History" the most fascinating as it explored the present and looked at some of the data available about the value of museums. Especially that their benefits far outweigh the costs.

A recent social justice movement launched under the name "Museums aren't neutral." The ideas that campaign represents are amply illustrated here. A useful book for any museum studies student or museum volunteer or employee.
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United States • 1865-present

Growing up, a museum curator was another job I thought I might enjoy pursuing. Looking at interesting artifacts all day and deciding where they belong in the collection - sounded like fun! But, after reading this book, even just the prologue, you come to realize that museums are so much more. Museums are not static buildings that never change but rather collections that are, or should be, constantly changing to keep up with our world's challenges: wars, financial, pandemics, fires, social issues, natural disasters and more. Redman also explores how "museums balance their varied roles in public education, research, and preservation".

Non-fiction, short book (about 200 pages). Only complaint would be that it reads more like a college term-paper than a published book. Deserves to be picked up, especially by archives, library and museum geeks, like myself - highly recommend.

I was gifted this advance copy by NetGalley and was under no obligation to provide a review.
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While reading this book, I was reminded of a lot of books that I read in college. This would be a good text to use for an intro to museum studies. Surveying the different crisis that museums have faced throughout the last two hundred years, it gives a good overview of how difficult it is to maintain an institution like a museum. While maybe not meant for the general public, it is well researched and presented. 

I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for a review, but opinions are my own.
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Most people that enjoy museums have no idea of the challenges -- financial, political, social and technological -- that these institutions face. This book enlightens the reader with hardships from the past to the present.

This book addresses several types of crisis from the late 1850s to 2021. Environmental impacts from fires, earthquakes and storms have been destructive over the years. Sicknesses such as the influenza of 1918, tuberculosis and the pandemic which started in 2020 have caused financial setbacks with a lower attendance and shortage of workers. Another area of concern is with the devastation caused by wars and how they have had serious affects on museums. Finally, a huge issue has been with racial discrimination and how protestors in the 70s caused board members to finally begin to listen to their demands. With each catastrophe, leaders at museums needed to make adjustments and solid financial plans for the future to survive.

Throughout the years, board members have been presented with issues they needed to sort out. Discussions include the roles of museums and what stories should be told. Also there is the question of how much the government is willing to invest with these institutions especially when attendance is low and revenues are down. With stiff competition, would museums need to sell a collection to stay afloat when times are tough?

While it was a short book of history, there was a lot to digest. It was interesting with brief stories, facts and quotes. The end includes pages of notes for those requiring details. The author did a great deal of research and presented crucial points on how museums need to reflect on the past to go forward in the future.. The history of challenges that were presented could also be useful for other nonprofits such as libraries. For all of us that love museums, it provides us with a greater understanding of the business side and encourages us to continue to give them our support. 

My thanks to Samuel J. Redman, New York University Press, NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this book with the expected release date of April 5, 2022.
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Ironic, isn't it, that not long after finishing the book and taking a break on a social media site that almost the first post that popped up was one about a virtual tour of Auschwitz being offered by the Holocaust Education Center. In addition, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum posts regularly on social media, informing and, among other things, sharing photos of those whose lives were lost of changed forever by the Nazis. Far from being hidden away behind closed doors that often require an admission fee to enter, museums are visible and serving a variety of purposes today. Redman's book is a look at how they got to this point. How they have preserved and, yes, improved history.

Whether your small, local museum dedicated perhaps to local concerns or the vast Smithsonian or Louvre, all have had to adapt and learn not just from past events but current ones. It's a cliche but change is inevitable but museums have had to change frequently. Financial problems seem chronic, as do cutbacks in staff and acquisitions. Fire and natural disasters have destroyed and threatened priceless exhibits. Yet, museums persist. Whereas Redman details historical events and their impact on museums, one of the ideas was that the idea of a museums, in whatever format, is that they are durable. Wars and events such as, yes, pandemics, as well as changing attitudes and cultures have also played a role.

Quite frankly, even as a former history major, I also had no idea of the role many museums and their staffs played during the wars. For instance, they contributed not just their knowledge but linguistic skills. They shared how to preserve things, make them last. Yet, they haven't just preserved history and artifacts but shared them with the world at large. The goal of most seems to not just exist but to make a definite contribution to the community and world about them.

Bottom line, Redman does a commendable job presenting not just the history of the museum as an idea but his take on where the museum needs to go in the future. As a former history major and teacher, I was fascinated to discover how involved in the world events about them museums were, whether responding to the Great Depression and world wars to dealing with changing times and needs. That I can so readily encounter museum funded virtual videos on not just the Holocaust but almost any event that has taken place shows how quick man is to preserve. Museums serve a valuable purpose. Yes, the idea of the museum is durable.

Thank you #NetGalley and #NYUPress for the advance copy. I learned a great deal.
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The Museum by Samuel J. Redman is a nonfiction book about the many different crisis and upheavals that museums have faced throughout the history of the United States. As someone who has both studied and worked in the Museum field I appreciated the exploration of the many different crisis and issues museums have faced overtime. I also like that fact that the author tried to see what exactly happen and how that instance is viewed now with the advantage of hindsight. However, as the book discussed more recent issues I did feel like the author's personal feelings came out more than was necessary.
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THE MUSEUM offers everything that I look for in a history book that I read for fun: engaging, smart, short, and well-researched. THE MUSEUM traces the history of museums confronting crises in the modern U.S.: WWI, Great Depression, WWII, 1970s protests, 1980s-1990s history wars, contemporary issues. book carefully balances (1) museums themselves, (2) the history of museums, (3) how the historical context throughout the history of museums shaped the museums themselves. 
some favorite lines from the conclusion: “museums are not invincible” and “museums are not perfect.” combined with the last chapter’s reference to the “museums are not neutral” movement, readers arrive at: museums are not invincible, museums are not perfect, museums are not neutral. 
I enjoyed the whole book from New Deal funding for museum projects to WWII collaboration with State Dept to blazing culture wars of the past half-century. author consciously mentions that this is a short not cumulative history: it emphasizes famous, sizable, American museums, though broader trends apply to smaller ones, too. sources include institutional records and newspapers. 
THE MUSEUM should be popular among public history graduate students, public historians ‘in the field,’ and museum visitors seeking a history of museums adjusting to change and shaping history.
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Samuel J. Redman's THE MUSEUM is an extensive and exhaustive brief history of American museology during the 20th and 21st centuries. As someone who is currently working inside a public museum, it is incredibly fascinating to see how much and how little things have changed in 100 years: the way two World Wars, devastating fires, economic crashes, and two pandemics shaped the way museums work nowadays is incredibly compelling, and Redman's writing (while a bit pedantic at times) is rather easy to read. A book that is well worth reading if you have ever wanted to know more about just how complicated running a museum can be, and how important it is to adapt to the changing of times.
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