Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Date of this Version



Anderson, Christopher J. The Politics of Special Collections and Museum Exhibits: A Civil War or The War of Northern Aggression?"


Drew University Library, Madison, New Jersey, USA


This essay examines the political nature of curating special collections and museum exhibits. Exhibits are designed to draw attention to historical or contemporary issues in order for viewers to reflect on the past and to ask questions in the present. The contents of an exhibit also echo the educational backgrounds, interests, and biases of both curator and curatorial team. As a result exhibits are framed ideologically, sociologically, and even theologically in order to give voice to the voiceless and to champion certain positions from history. This essay investigates the contested nature of exhibits by highlighting their basic and complicated spectrums of meaning. The essay also identifies the politically-charged subtleties surrounding the selection, arrangement, and use of objects chosen or not chosen for exhibition. Finally, the essay brings attention to the perspective of the viewer by examining the intent of the curator regarding how exhibits are shaped for museum audiences.



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