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ISBN: HB: 9781941792162

University of Chicago Press, Bard Graduate Center

February 2021

394 pp.

22.8x15.2 cm



Museum in the Cultural Sciences

Collecting, Displaying, and Interpreting Material Culture in the Twentieth Century

In early twentieth-century Berlin, Wilhelm von Bode sparked a controversy with his sweeping proposal to reorganize a group of the city's museums. Debates about the role and structure of museums played out in 1907 and 1910 with two striking series of articles that appeared in the journal Museumskunde: Journal for the Administration and Technology of Public and Private Collections. The first was a six-part essay by Otto Lauffer on history museums, and the second was a ten-part piece by Oswald Richter regarding ethnographic museums. Together, they initiated a century of significant dialogue. The Museum in the Cultural Sciences offers the first full English translations of these articles, which remain influential in conversations about the implications of art, historical, and ethnographic museums. They show how sophisticated the discussion of museums and museum display was in the early twentieth century and how much could be gained from revisiting these reflections today. Accompanied by short commentaries from museum professionals, these articles offer an intervention into and intensification of the current debate about museums, one that will be further invigorated by the opening of the Humboldt Forum – a pioneering partnership between art and science museums – in Berlin in 2020.  

About the Author

Peter N. Miller is professor and Dean at Bard Graduate Center in New York.