Massachusetts Historical Society


Useful Objects: Museums, Science, and Literature in Nineteenth-Century America


Reed Gochberg, Harvard University in conversation with Sara Georgini

Useful Objects examines the history of American museums during the 19th century through the eyes of visitors, writers, and collectors. Museums of this period held a wide range of objects, from botanical and zoological specimens to antiquarian artifacts and technological models. Intended to promote “useful knowledge,” these collections generated broader discussions about how objects were selected, preserved, and classified as well as who gets to decide their value. Their reflections shaped broader debates about the scope and purpose of museums in American culture that continue to resonate today.

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