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Museums: A History

By: John Edward Simmons(Author)

326 pages, 26 b/w photos, 1 b/w illustration, 13 tables

Rowman & Littlefield

Hardback | Jul 2016 | #239937 | ISBN-13: 9781442263628
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £54.95 $72/€63 approx

About this book

This comprehensive history of museums begins with the origins of collecting in prehistory and traces the evolution of museums from grave goods to treasure troves, from the Alexandrian Temple of the Muses to the Renaissance cabinets of curiosities, and onto the diverse array of modern institutions worldwide. The development of museums as public institutions is explored in the context of world history with a special emphasis on the significance of objects and collecting. Museums: A History examines how the successful exportation of the European museum model and its international adaptations have created public institutions that are critical tools in diverse societies for understanding the world. Rather than focusing on a specialized aspect of museum history, this volume provides a comprehensive synthesis of museums worldwide from their earliest origins to the present. Museums: A History tells the fascinating story of how museums respond to the needs of the cultures that create them.

"I am so pleased (and relieved) to have this book available! The field of museum studies is in great need of a synthesized and complete overview of museums' origins and development through time and space. The book is written in an accessible way; the organization is logical, clear, and topics are interesting. It's just what I need to teach my course on museum origins!"
– Kiersten F. Latham, Assistant Professor / Muselab Director, School of Library and Information Science, Kent University

"This lovely volume, simultaneously comprehensive and accessible, reveals the development of museums through the lens of their defining feature – collections. Between its covers, it impressively traces the history of organized collecting from prehistory to the digital age – from ancient hoards to virtual museums. It will be indispensable for students and professionals alike."
– Peter H. Welsh, Professor and Director of Museum Studies, University of Kansas


Chapter 1. What is a Collection? What is a Museum?
Chapter 2. Hoards and Tombs – Collections in the Ancient World (to 700 BCE)
Chapter 3. The Temple of the Muses – the Conjunction of Objects and Knowledge (Classical Antiquity, 700 BCE to CE 400)
Chapter 4. The Power of Objects – Medieval Collections (400 to 1400)
Chapter 5. Of Cabinets and Kings – Renaissance Collections (1400 to 1600)
Chapter 6. The Museum Enlightened – 1600 to 1800
Chapter 7. Emergence of the Modern Museum – 1800 to 1900
Chapter 8. Museums in a World Gone Awry – 1900 to 1970
Chapter 9. Learning to Read Objects (Again – the Post-Postmodern Museum

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John E. Simmons has worked in museums since his freshman year in college (1969). Over the course of his career, he has been a zookeeper, collections manager, museum studies instructor, and director of a graduate program in museum studies. He has taught workshops and museum studies classes for undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals in the US, Latin America, Australia, and Thailand. At present, he is an independent museum consultant. He teaches museum studies classes for Kent State University, Juniata College, and the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and serves as Adjunct Curator of Collections for the Earth and Mineral Sciences Museum & Art Gallery at The Pennsylvania State University.

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