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Public culture in the early republic : Peale's Museum and its audience

Author: David R Brigham
Publisher: Washington : Smithsonian Institution Press, ©1995.
Edition/Format:   Print book : Biography : EnglishView all editions and formats
Database:WorldCat
Summary:
When Charles Willson Peale, patriarch of a prominent artistic family in Philadelphia, redesigned his personal painting gallery in 1786 to include a "repository for Natural Curiosities," one of America's first museums of art and science was born. Tracing the development of Peale's Philadelphia Museum as an educational institution, as a business, and as a form of entertainment, David R. Brigham shows how this "world  Read more...
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Details

Genre/Form: Biography
History
Named Person: Charles Willson Peale; Charles Willson Peale; Charles Willson Peale
Material Type: Biography
Document Type: Book
All Authors / Contributors: David R Brigham
ISBN: 1560984163 9781560984160
OCLC Number: 30032110
Description: xi, 218 pages : illustrations ; 28 cm
Contents: 1. Contemporary Institutions of Education and Entertainment and Their Audiences --
2. Peale's Public Presentation of the Museum --
3. Written Responses to Peale's Museum --
4. The Audience for Silhouettes Cut by Moses Williams --
5. Subscribers to Annual Admission Tickets --
6. Donors of Minerals, Natural Resources, and American Manufactures --
7. Donors of Artifacts of Human Difference --
Appendix: Subscribers to Peale's Museum in 1794, Grouped by Occupation and Ranked by Wealth.
Responsibility: David R. Brigham.

Abstract:

When Charles Willson Peale, patriarch of a prominent artistic family in Philadelphia, redesigned his personal painting gallery in 1786 to include a "repository for Natural Curiosities," one of America's first museums of art and science was born. Tracing the development of Peale's Philadelphia Museum as an educational institution, as a business, and as a form of entertainment, David R. Brigham shows how this "world in miniature" helped define the terms of participation in early national cultural institutions. Brigham examines the museum's place in early American cultural life from the perspective of patrons and donors and by analyzing Peale's promotional efforts toward specific segments of the population. Aspiring to exhibit the full range of natural and artistic wonders from around the globe, Peale publicly proclaimed that his museum - in matching breadth of display with diversity of audience - also would fulfill a goal of the new American republic: the establishment of a universally educated public. Brigham reveals, however, that although Peale's objective was to make the museum democratically accessible, the composition of his audience was significantly limited, especially with respect to social rank, gender, and race. In promoting the museum to his potential audience, Peale defined it broadly as a public benefit, but he also targeted specific audiences by concentrating on the economic, social, scientific, moral, and religious implications of his exhibitions. In turn, members of Peale's audience used the museum to identify with particular social groups, to promote their intellectual accomplishments, to market their products, and to establish the boundaries of their community. Peale shaped exhibits to reinforce his notion of human order: that people should live in harmony but that hierarchical relationships among the sexes, social ranks, and races were natural. At Peale's Museum, visitors were encouraged to reflect on their own place in this world in miniature as well as in society at large.

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