Read the full essay at the IUPUI Digital History Blog!

Digital Public History

[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.[1]

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.[2] 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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