Private History in Public

Exhibition and the Settings of Everyday Life

By (author) Tammy S. Gordon Foreword by Harold Skramstad

Publication date:

16 January 2010

Length of book:

170 pages


Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

ISBN-13: 9780759119345

In small community museums, truck stops, restaurants, bars, barbershops, schools, and churches, people create displays to tell the histories that matter to them. Much of this history is personal: family history, community history, history of a trade, or the history of something considered less than genteel. It is often history based on the historical record, but also based on feelings, beliefs, and memory. It is neglected history.

Private History in Public is about those history exhibits that complicate the public/private dichotomy, exhibits that serve to explain communities, families, and individuals to outsiders and tie insiders together through a shared narrative of historical experience. Tammy S. Gordon looks beyond the large professionalized museum exhibits that have dominated scholarship in museum studies and public history and offers a new way of understanding the broad spectrum of exhibition types in the United States.
Tammy Gordon is an engaging guide through a world of historical exhibitions that remains mostly unrecognized by professional public historians. Whether considering displays in bars or barbershops, tributes to firefighters or 'Freakatoriums,' Gordon has a wry but generous touch as she analyzes the sites on their own terms and considers their implications for more traditional museums. Since Americans are just as likely to seek out exhibitions by the roadside as in a museum, it's time we understand what sort of history they are getting and how it sustains them. Gordon's book is a thought-provoking introduction to how the past gets constructed outside the gallery walls.