New book inspired by the Lost Museum project!

Tbook coverhe Lost Museum lives on!

Inside the Lost Museum: Curating, Past and Present, by Jenks Society member Steven Lubar, builds from the story of John Whipple Potter Jenks and the lost Jenks Museum to explain what curators do, and why.

The new book divides museum work into four parts: Collect, Preserve, Display, and Use. Jenks did all of those things, and each chapter starts with a Jenks story. He’s collecting turtles and turtle eggs for Agassiz. He’s worrying about taxidermy. He’s building cases and deciding what order to put things in. And he’s using collections for teaching and research, and for building community. There’s a lot here about Jenks and the museum he curated.

But there’s much more, too. The book explains current-day best practices in each of these areas of museum work, and how they came to be, tracing two centuries of museum history. Everything this former curator wishes he had known when he started the job!

And for those who enjoyed the Lost Museum as an art installation; the new book has that covered, too. The final section, Critique, reprises the work of the museum, this time as seen by contemporary artists who have made art based on and critiquing curatorial practice.

Available from Amazon and from Harvard University Press.

From the blurbs:

Steven Lubar has written a wonderfully comprehensive and intriguing assessment of the impact and importance of museums by unearthing both the history of these cultural institutions and the contemporary challenges that face the field. Featuring an insider’s knowledge and a scholar’s curiosity, Inside the Lost Museum is a must-read for those who want to understand how museums shape America’s memories and its national identity. (Lonnie G. Bunch III, Director, National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution)


In this volume, Steven Lubar, among the most thoughtful scholars and professionals in the field, turns “museum” into a verb, taking us behind the scenes to show how collecting, exhibiting, and programming are conceived and organized. His clear, straightforward, and insightful account provides case studies as well as a larger framework for understanding museological practices, choices, historical trends, controversies, and possible futures. The treatment of art, science, and history museums and occupational roles from director and curator to exhibition designer and educator make this required reading for everyone in the museum field. (Richard Kurin, Acting Provost and Under Secretary for Museums and Research, Smithsonian Institution)


Inside the Lost Museum ably demonstrates that Steven Lubar is among the most perceptive historians thinking and writing about the American museum today. Equipped with intimate knowledge from years at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, Lubar connects the history of early museums to what currently transpires behind the scenes, as staff debate ideas for exhibitions, wrestle with ethical dilemmas, and attempt to foster greater public participation than ever before. (Kym Rice, Assistant Director for Academic Affairs, Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, George Washington University)







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