Expositions, museums, and technological display : building cultural institutions for the "inventor citizen" in the late nineteenth century United States
Author(s)Endersby, Linda Eikmeier, 1973-
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Program in Science, Technology and Society.
Merrit Roe Smith.
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The dissertation is an historical study of the interactions between technologists and museums in the late nineteenth United States, the role of international expositions-such as Philadelphia in 1876 and Chicago in 1893-in these interactions, and the rise of technology collections in those museums. Through archival sources, as well as published primary and secondary source material, the dissertation examines the role of engineers and the public in creating technological collections in museums dominated by natural history specimens. It focuses on intersections between industry, engineers, international expositions, and museums in the nineteenth century by considering the cases of the Smithsonian's National Museum and the Field Columbian Museum. This research explores technology and its cultural roles, how technology related to or differed from other aspects of American culture, and how this may have precluded the establishment of a national museum dedicated to mechanical arts, technology and America's inventor citizens, even while some engineers brokered a place for technological collections to develop. Despite objections and a lack of support from the higher administration within the museums, mechanical and technological collections developed. In an era of enthusiasm for technology, invention, and mechanics, forces outside the museums pushed the development of the collections. In particular, a group of engineers, as curators and exhibit designers; played roles in the celebration of technological achievement and at the expositions, in the attempts to establish mechanical arts and technology collections at the two prominent museums, and in the connections between technologists and museums that proved essential to the development of the collections. In addition, pressure from a public audience enthused about technology and machines aided such collections by influencing museum administration. This dissertation argues that engineers became mediators between the museum world and the world of engineering by brokering the culture of technology and securing a subordinate, yet permanent place for technology within the museum world. Key issues in the negotiation and brokering include the nature of the culture of technology, the professionalization process of engineers and their need for social status and cultural recognition, and the place of technology in nineteenth century lives and hierarchies.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Program in Science, Technology and Society, 1999.Vita.Includes bibliographical references (leaves 254-273).
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Program in Science, Technology and Society.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Program in Science, Technology and Society.