Lost in the Museum: Buried Treasures and the Stories They by Nancy Moses

By Nancy Moses

Few past the insider notice that museums personal hundreds of thousands of items the general public by no means sees. In Lost within the Museum, Nancy Moses takes the reader in the back of the “employees basically” doorways to discover the tales buried―along with the objects―in the crypts of museums, old societies, and files. Moses discovers the particular birds shot, filled, and painted via John James Audubon, America's such a lot liked fowl artist; a spear that abolitionist John Brown carried in his quixotic quest to loose the slaves; and the cranium of a prehistoric Peruvian baby who died with scurvy. She takes the reader to Ker-Feal, the key farmhouse that Albert Barnes of the Barnes beginning packed with fantastic American antiques and that was once then left untouched for greater than fifty years.

Weaving the tales of the article, its unique proprietor, and the customarily idiosyncratic establishment the place the article is living, the publication finds the darkest mystery of the cultural global: the precarious stability of artwork, tradition, and politics that maintain goods, for many years, misplaced within the museum.

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Additional resources for Lost in the Museum: Buried Treasures and the Stories They Tell

Sample text

An Englishman who saw them invited Blaschka to test this glass artist’s talent on marine invertebrates. The mid-nineteenth century was an explosion of new knowledge, a time when scientists spanned the world collecting rare flora and fauna. Some of the specimens ended up in the new museums just being built and in older ones recently opened to the public. Many groups of animals—birds, mammals, reptiles, and fish—could be skinned, stuffed, and placed on display. But soft-bodied creatures, marine invertebrates like sea anemones and jellyfish, proved more problematic.

I seemed—to myself and to the board of directors that hired me—the perfect person to rescue and revitalize the Atwater Kent. But the galleries were tired and tiny: most museums display about 10 percent of their holdings, but our galleries were so small that we could exhibit only 1 percent of what we owned. The 80,000 items in the collection were desperate for tender, loving care. Though some seemed of questionable merit, there was much that was deserving of it. Among the treasures were thousands of images documenting Philadelphia’s changing landscape, elegant bridal and ball gowns worn by generations of local ladies, relics harvested by soldiers on Civil War battlefields, and the thank-you gift that traitor Aaron Burr gave to his Philadelphia in-laws who hid him and his wife during the American Revolution.

From childhood on, he was possessed by birds—shooting them, stuffing them, studying them, suspending them on wires, and painting them again and again and again. Born in 1785 to a French sea captain and his French mistress in what is now Haiti, Audubon spent his childhood in France, where he received a minimal education. Audubon’s father was the first in a long line of family and friends who attempted to curb Audubon’s peculiar predilection and direct him toward more practical employment. In 1803 Audubon pere sent Audubon fils across the ocean to learn how to manage the farm the family owned in Chester County, near Philadelphia.

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