Read the full essay at the IUPUI Digital History Blog!
[Museum] specimens must be prepared in the most careful and artistic manner, and arranged attractively in well-designed cases and behind the clearest of glass. Each object must bear a label, giving its name and history so fully that all the probable questions of the visitor are answered in advance… [Museum collections] cultivate the powers of observation, and the casual visitor even makes discoveries for himself, and, under the guidance of the labels, forms his own impression… [objects] are a powerful stimulant to intellectual activity.
The following words come from a posthumously published essay in 1901 on the future of museums by George Brown Goode, director of the collections wing of the Smithsonian in the late nineteenth century. Today we would probably disagree with Goode’s belief that museum labels could answer “all the probable questions” of an audience. We definitely don’t want our audiences to shut up, and…
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