<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> Women and the Mutual Development of Museums and Libraries <p> <p> Museums and libraries share a history as places whose related processes of institutionalization and professionalization profoundly shaped the early twentieth-century intellectual woman. Although today libraries and museums conduct different kinds of cultural work, they developed as public institutions in part by observing each other and recognizing that they shared many of the same goals. Libraries were younger but developed institutional character first. Museums observed the early history of the library and modeled their institutionalization on the library's progress. Debates in the mid-nineteenth century considered what kind of political influence a library or museum ought to have and whether such places had the potential to exercise less obviously the same kinds of social controls as the church or the court. Because cultural institutions were relatively new social institutions overtly concerned with the development of a national culture, and were not obviously involved in any regulatory or authoritarian action (as, for example, the court or the church had been), politicians debated how to make these cultural spaces, particularly libraries and museums, do certain kinds of "persuasive" institutional work, influencing beliefs and attitudes of patrons without overtly doing so. <p> The fear that American scholars would have to continue to travel to England to find the material that they needed for their work, along with the desire to create an independent American culture, spurred the earliest library movement forward. Discussions about the role of the library in national politics became clearly articulated through the extensive debates surrounding the creation of the Boston Public Library. When the Boston Public Library Board of Trustees asked George Ticknor and Edward Everett to draft a report about the plans for the creation of the library, board members expected that the librarian-scholars would provide them with the rhetoric that they wished to use to describe the library project. The report, which was drafted on July 6, 1852, set out the reasons for establishing the library: "In this way the Trustees would endeavor to make the Public Library of the City, as far as possible, the crowning glory of our system of City schools; or, in other words, <i>they would make it an institution</i>, fitted to continue and increase the best effects of that system, by opening to all the means of self-culture through books, for which these schools have been specially qualifying them." In the document the two men clearly state that the collective aim is to make the library into "an institution." This was not merely a general desire to make the library an important cultural center in Boston. They carefully chose the word <i>institution</i> to represent the plan for a library that would exercise a certain amount of intellectual and political control over the masses: <p> It has rightly been judged that-under political, social, and religious institutions like ours-it is of paramount importance that the means of general information should be so diffused that the largest possible number of persons should be induced to read and understand questions going down to the very foundations of social order ... for no population of one hundred and fifty thousand souls, lying so compactly together as to be able, with tolerable convenience, to resort to one library, was ever before so fitted to become a reading, self-cultivating population. By a little judicious help in the selections for a Free City Library, rather than by any direct control, restraint or solicitation, [the taste for books may] be carried much higher than has commonly [been] deemed possible; preventing at the same time, a great deal of mischievous, poor reading now indulged in. <p> <p> The idea that the institution will fit seamlessly into the project of the "political, social, and religious institutions" that already exist was an old argument for the close relationship between the creation of the library and the continuation of the national political project. The document also made an argument, however, for what institutions do. Namely, they control without obviously controlling, they prevent mischief, and they teach self-culture, which will eventually lead to self-control and self-restraint. The plan for the Boston Public Library was to offer "judicious help" to "one hundred and fifty thousand" Boston souls by offering free books that would help create a restrained, controlled, and patriotic population. <p> Whether the motivation behind the creation of these early cultural institutions was the promotion of an ideal nation of educated people or the desire to create institutions of control was a source of debate that historians continue to probe. As Michael Harris and Gerard Spiegler argue in their revisionist study of the public library, the early plans for public libraries, and particularly the national plans for libraries, brought about aggressive discussions between competing intellectuals who had very different reasons for supporting such plans. These debates intensified in the years leading up to the opening of the Boston Public Library in 1854: "Great enmity developed between the transcendentalists, who were anti-institutionalists, and other high-placed Bostonians. The transcendentalists insisted that each individual was capable of seeking, and finding, truth through a communion with nature, and they rejected the need for institutions designed to 'educate' or 'control' society ... while the more authoritarian Bostonians sought to bolster the controlling influence of existing social institutions while creating new ones that were designed to control the common man, not to liberate him." Playing on the term <i>librarian-scholars</i>, a phrase that has often been used to describe the men who helped create the earliest libraries, Harris and Spiegler describe the men who helped found the Boston Public Library as "authoritarian-elitists." They argue that these men wanted to create libraries in order to stamp out any form of social instability that might undermine the government and that they under stood that social meaning could be made more powerfully in seemingly benign institutions than directly through the government. <p> While Harris and Spiegler may overstate their argument, lumping Ticknor and Everett (two very different thinkers) together through their joint authorship of the report, there is no question that a few intellectuals feared that the library was being created as an institution of social control and ought to be resisted. Although Ralph Waldo Emerson was known to support libraries, beginning with the part his father played in founding the Boston Athenaeum and through the speech that Emerson gave in 1873 at the dedication of the new library building in Concord, he also worried about the effect that reading books in libraries had on students. In several essays, including "The American Scholar," Emerson commented on the possible dangers of reading books in libraries: "Meek young men grow up in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon, have given; forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries when they wrote those books." If readers approach the library with too much passive veneration, they might be tempted to accept books that have made it onto the library's shelves as containing a greater truth than the perceptions they bring to their reading. Behind Emerson's seemingly straightforward advice are statements about what libraries are. Simply put, they are archives, and as such, they institutionalize certain kinds of works by displaying them. Furthermore, by virtue of how they choose to display books and where they might place a particular work in relation to other books, libraries instantiate ideas to such an extent that the library, Emerson feared, could endanger original thought. <p> At the same time, of course, Emerson's essays are replete with evidence that he used libraries. In "Quotation and Originality," published first in <i>The North American Review</i> (1868) and later in <i>Letters and Social Aims</i> (1875), Emerson offers an interesting analogy to describe libraries: <p> Whoever looks at the insect world, at flies, aphides, gnats, and innumerable parasites, and even at the infant mammals, must have remarked the extreme content they take in suction, which constitutes the main business of their life. If we go into a library or news-room, we see the same function on a higher plane, performed with like ardor, with equal impatience of interruption, indicating the sweetness of the act. In the highest civilization the book is still the highest delight. He who has once known its satisfactions is provided with a resource against calamity.... In every man's memory, with the hours when life culminated are usually associated certain books which met his views. Of a large and powerful class we might ask with confidence: What is the event they most desire? What gift? What but the book that shall come, which they have sought through all libraries, through all languages, that shall be to their mature eyes what many a tinsel-covered toy pamphlet was to their childhood, and shall speak to the imagination? <p> <p> Because Emerson recognizes that the library has the potential to be a source of control, he fights against the idea that a man could sit in a library in "the extreme content" that a fly would "take in suction." Although books are "the highest delight," Emerson continues to argue against the idea that a person searching after genuine knowledge ought to sit passively in a library. <p> While in the early national period there was a search for the means to keep political stability in a postrevolutionary world, by the beginning of the twentieth century many of the questions that had been raised and seriously debated during these earlier periods were considered resolved or were simply dropped. A new attitude finds expression in Ainsworth Spofford's famous 1897 essay "The Function of the National Library," in which the librarian of Congress argues that "a fact pregnant with meaning [is] that the nations which possess the most extensive libraries maintain the foremost rank in civilization." Rather than consider the library a tool of the government to keep peace within the nation just as it had been in the past, librarians and politicians were beginning to view the library as an emblem of the government's power outside of the nation. This new perception is also evident in the 1896 congressional reports on the Library of Congress, which include long interviews between members of Congress and the librarians Spofford, Melvil Dewey, and Herbert Putnam (who would become the librarian of Congress in 1899 and would serve in that capacity for forty years). While the congressional meeting was held ostensibly to discuss the construction of the new wing of the building, the conversation was much more about the general interest in transforming the library further into an emblem of the new, industrial nation. Earlier concerns about the library's status as an institution had been replaced by newer ones considering the library's power as a symbol. Discussions centered on questions of perception-issues such as women as librarians, the hanging of artwork inside the library, and the desires of some speakers, such as Dewey and Putnam, to rename the Library of Congress "the National Library." The library as a site for debate between politicians about the role of the government and the power of institutions had been generally replaced by a notion of the library (even the Library of Congress) as standing outside of politics and requiring experts and professionals in the library field to explain its goals to politicians. <p> It was at this point in the library's history that the museum caught up to it. Although the American museum was officially older than the library, its status by 1876 was much less secure. John Eaton, the commissioner of education, had completed a centennial survey of libraries in 1876, but the centennial of museums in 1873 went unremarked. Museum historians have noted this absence: <p> If the condition of museums in 1876 could have been viewed with under standing, not to say prescience, a classic document might have been produced. The heyday of public museums had begun. The principal elements of the modern museum scene (except for some recent developments) had appeared.... There was evidence, in 1876, of a change in form of museum organization. <i>The old societies, academies, and lyceums had begun to give place to institutions</i>-conspicuous examples in Washington, Boston, and New York-suggesting that in the future the typical museum would be a corporation piloted by trustees. And to these harbingers had come city support-tax funds being given to the American and Metropolitan museums in New York. Nothing like this had happened before.... Here worldly responsibility was laid upon the new kind of museum to be "as important and beneficial an agent in the instruction of the people as any of the schools or colleges of the city." It was at this time also, well in view of centennial reporters, that the aim of public service-as contrasted to club activity-began to be realized through educational exhibits and the earliest cooperation with schools. <p> <p> Laurence Vail Coleman describes the evolution of the history of museums and libraries. The period of the American museum renaissance began slowly in 1870 with the founding of both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Newspaper and magazine articles about both spaces suggested that "very few persons in the land even [knew] what is meant by a Museum of Art" at the time. Magazines and newspapers publicly debated what a museum <i>is</i> and what effect it would have on people. Partly as a reply to these kinds of questions, there was an increasing emphasis on discussions about the social responsibility of these new spaces. The museum's perception of itself as an institution corresponded with its efforts to become more central to education. Coleman describes the museum's transformation to the status of institution as effectively providing a set of recognizable goals and ideals to achieve. <p> For Coleman the progression from buildings that house art to the big-city art museum was a fantastic change carried through during the Industrial Revolution. The growth of museums coincided with a period of massive political expansion in the United States, aptly described as "the incorporation of America." This much-analyzed fifty-year period in American history, extending from 1870 to 1920, encompassed the massive industrial and commercial revolution that transformed the American material and intellectual landscape. Museums and libraries were swept up in this period of change, and they not only expanded in size and scope but were reorganized on the model of the businesses that their new trustees successfully managed. Individuals such as Andrew Carnegie and J. P. Morgan helped to turn these institutions into loci of power and privilege through their contributions of money, book and art collections, and management expertise. As the centralization and organization of administrative functions in museums and libraries was transformed, so the status of the institutions <i>as</i> institutions was transformed as well. To receive state and federal money, they had to play up their educational goals and their training and employment systems. The change was rapid and powerful. By the early twentieth century, museum curators and administrators such as Benjamin Ives Gilman at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and Roger Fry at the Metropolitan Museum of Art were publishing texts about how museum education had transformed the exhibition and display of museum objects and had changed the experience of going to a museum. <p> By this point the status of museums and libraries as institutions no longer produced the same kind of controversy. Instead, the maturation of these spaces was completed through the process of their professionalization. As specific types of educational training and expertise became increasingly required to work in and write about these spaces, museums and libraries sought to embrace their new status as professional organizations. Formerly politically charged institutions, they became anxious to shift the public perception of their relationships with the political and the economic worlds. Publicly they were increasingly perceived as symbolic and stable cultural (as opposed to political) spaces. Their symbolic value as institutions was in large part a result of their founding as political institutions. Ideals that had been abstracted from their specific histories, including the arguments surrounding the importance of their early development, still clung to them but in a new and vague form. The original meanings of the terms of the postrevolutionary political debates about social control and national spirit in the library had over time become obscured and were replaced only by a sense that libraries and museums were both central symbols of democracy. <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>From the Modernist Annex</b> by <b>Karin Roffman</b> Copyright © 2010 by The University of Alabama Press. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. 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