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Author: Steven Lubar

Building a skiascope

Building a skiascope

                “The theoretic value of the skiascope is incontestable.”  —Benjamin Ives Gilman In his Museum Ideals of Purpose and Method (1918 ), Gilman gives detailed instructions for making a skiascope, a device that will allow museum to see paintings and sculptures more clearly, by blocking glare, and other distractions. [scribd id=268670595 key=key-z673RqPg67anzV5ifkqI mode=scroll] The instructions are long and complicated. Here’s a quick pictorial guide: First, cut out the top and bottom Make the wires, and…

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“Today’s Museum: Innovation, Change, and Challenge”

“Today’s Museum: Innovation, Change, and Challenge”

Here’s the presentation I gave at the Mathers Museum’s “Museums at the Crossroads: Local Knowledge, Global Encounters” workshop last week. More on the workshop here. It was a delightful event: smart people from around the world thinking about the future of museums. Video and more coming soon. [scribd id=265809631 key=key-YIEJLWe80MpT7zmNQkzO mode=scroll]

“The Curator Rules”

“The Curator Rules”

These are the slides and my notes from my talk at Marymount University, the Bissel Lecture in the Humanities, presented April 10 as part of the Virginia Humanities Conference. My thanks to Tonya Howe for the invitation, to Marymount for their hospitality, and to the audience for its good questions. [scribd id=261593303 key=key-Cnl9rhuKTMbfV4vLycxp mode=scroll] NOTE: The next entry in this blog is a corrected and expanded version of this talk.

Exhibit and exhibit labels workshop

Exhibit and exhibit labels workshop

I talked to the “Methods in Public Humanities” class today about exhibitions. A very quick overview, and didn’t even get to the how-to-write-good-labels part of the talk. Here are my presentations, on exhibits generally, and on exhibit labels, slightly cleaned up but without much in the way of notes.  

History of museum exhibitions; a Pinterest experiment

History of museum exhibitions; a Pinterest experiment

When I taught a course on the history of museums, I found it useful to have a ready source of historical images of exhibitions from the past 500 years of so. As an experiment, I added Pinterest to my workflow. It’s extremely easy to add an image to a Pinterest board; click a button, correct the caption, and you’re set. And Pinterest makes suggestions, too: other boards with similar images, which makes it easy to explore and find images others…

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The Curator Rules

The Curator Rules

Museum curators have certain ways of doing things, certain rules they follow. It’s important to know what these rules are – and also to realize that they can be broken. These are notes from my talk to Catherine Whalen and Sarah Carter’s “Curatorial Practice as Experiment” course at Bard Graduate School. Catherine asked that I talk about creative curation, to inspire students in the class working on an exhibition project. The assignment got me thinking: what’s creativity? Some part of…

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Writing about the past, thinking about the future: National Museum of American History

Writing about the past, thinking about the future: National Museum of American History

My article on the history and philosophy of collecting at the National Museum of American History has been published in the Federal History Journal. The issue is freely available, here, and my essay is here. It’s a good issue: I especially recommend the article by Margo Anderson, “Public Management of Big Data: Historical Lessons from the 1940s.” My essay was inspired by the 50th anniversary of the NMAH. I used to work there, and a former colleague asked me to write something. The director was…

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“Museum Histories” course, Spring 2015

“Museum Histories” course, Spring 2015

Here’s the syllabus for my upcoming course, AMST1903I. It’s a history of museums, mostly American, history and science as well as art. The syllabus includes links to many of the articles, but you’ll find some are behind paywalls. Any feedback welcome! [scribd id=252173704 key=key-QP8xBNRSKsbXowmmtvLd mode=scroll]

Crossing borders, or not, at the AHA

Crossing borders, or not, at the AHA

I go to the American Historical Association annual meeting about once every ten years. The usual complaints keep me away: too big, too crazy, most of the sessions too far outside my interests. And the more specific complaint you’d expect from someone interested in public history and public humanities: too academic. Just everyone I talked to had similar complaints. Even more important: they always have. That’s one of the lessons from a fine talk at a fine session (now that…

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