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The Museum in the Cultural Sciences, edited by Peter N. Miller


Peter N. Miller, editor

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 the function and purpose of museums.

Table of Contents

Series Editor's Preface


Introduction: What Kind of Knowledge Is Museum Knowledge?
Peter N. Miller

PART I From the Pages of Museumkunde

A Note on the Text

The Historical Museum: Its Character, Its Work, and How It Differs from Museums of Art and Applied Arts
Otto Lauffer

On the Ideal and Practical Tasks of Ethnographic Museums
Oswald Richter

PART II Reflections on Reading Lauffer and Richter Today

Youth and Arrogance
Julien Chapuis

Oswald Richter and the "Purity of the Specific Local Culture"
Edward S. Cooke, Jr.

"Certain Secondary Tasks of Ethnographic Museums": Richter's Writings and the Role of Ethnographic Museums in Germany's Colonial Period
Viola König

Perfecting the Past: Period Rooms Between Disneyland and the White Box
Deborah L. Krohn

Categories with Consequences
Alisa LaGamma

Visions of Juxtaposition: Peiresc/Bataille, Monuments/Documents
Peter N. Miller

The Future in the Past
H. Glenn Penny

Triangulating Art/Artifact: Indigenous Studies as the Third Term
RuthB. Phillips

Richter and Us
Jeffrey Quilter

An Attempt at Order in a Time of Flux
Matthew Rampley

Words and Things
Anke te Heesen

Mix It Up: Five Observations on Collections and Museums
Nicholas Thomas

Life and Death in the Museum
Céline Trautmann-Waller

Photographs: Showcases, and Multiple Agencies: Modes of Representation and Directions of Gaze
Eva-Maria Troelenberg

The Museum Beyond Walls
Mariët Westermann

Conclusion: Max Weber in the Museum
Peter N. Miller



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Page Count
317 pages

Publication date