Instructor: Reed Gochberg
Meeting time: Wednesday, 1-3
In this course, we will consider the literary and cultural history of American museums from the eighteenth century to the present. Throughout the semester, we will discuss how museums have functioned as both centers for research and as public spaces for education and entertainment, and how such priorities have evolved over the past few centuries, shaped by new ideas about conservation, education, and access. How do we determine the authenticity and value of art objects and natural specimens? How have museums informed debates over national politics and cultural authority? And how do museum collections create narratives about national and natural history? We will explore these and other questions through a range of sources, including fiction and poetry, visual and material culture, and periodicals and museum guidebooks, as well as visits to Harvard’s own varied museum collections and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.