A Living Exhibition: The Smithsonian and the Transformation of the Universal Museum

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Since its creation in 1846, the Smithsonian has played an important role in the American cultural landscape. Walker examines the tangled history of cultural exhibition at the Institution, from its early years to the establishment of the National Museum of the American Indian in 1989. He traces the transformation of the Smithsonian from its original conception as a "universal museum" to the variegated museum and research complex of the early 20th century. Walker looks in-depth at approaches to cultural history, cultural anthropology, and folklife during the era after World War II when the Smithsonian expanded significantly


  • Cultural History, Department of
  • National Museum of American History (U.S.) Dept of Social and Cultural History
  • National Museum of the American Indian (U.S.)
  • Festival of American Folklife
  • Smithsonian Folklife Festival


Smithsonian History Bibliography


  • Walker was a predoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian in 2005.
  • Project Muse has a pdf version of the volume at https://muse.jhu.edu/book/27762.

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20024-2520, SIHistory@si.edu




  • Civilization
  • Folklore
  • Ethnology
  • Anthropology
  • Museums
  • Cultural policy
  • History
  • Protection
  • Cultural property
  • Cultural property--Protection
  • Civilization--History
  • Museum techniques


  • Americas
  • United States


First Edition

Physical description

Number of pages: 304; Page numbers: 1-304

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