A history of antiquities ownership in the United States, 1870-1934

Usage Conditions Apply
The Smithsonian Institution Archives welcomes personal and educational use of its collections unless otherwise noted. For commercial uses, please contact photos@si.edu.


  • Daniels looks at the role of "historic relics" in shaping the construction of a normative public sphere, ethnic whiteness, and historical memory. His dissertation focuses upon why politicians prized historical knowledge, how experts guided public conceptions of the past, and how ordinary people experienced their history when wandering through the Smithsonian's collections of flags, coins, uniforms, dresses and flying machines. Through the nexus of these interactions, the dissertation narrates how Americans claimed ownership over their heritage. In five chapters, he traces the origins, expansion, reorganization, and public role of the Smithsonian; the efforts by museum curators to develop and control federal American history collections; and the Smithsonian's encouragement of domestic tourism and collecting as acts of patriotism and public citizenship.
  • His analysis draws upon the Smithsonian's accession records, curatorial reports, and public inquiry files, which reveal visitor reactions, ideas about museum displays, arguments between curators about historical value, and detailed explanations about why curators chose some objects as more important than others. Additionally, he augments the study with published tour guides, first-hand visitor accounts, and collecting guides. His research challenges prevailing assumptions about the natural, socially-driven qualities of historical memory and nostalgia. Rather, he argue that the American "heritage" is a result of expert knowledge and intervention, which has, in turn, ordered the boundaries of belief in civic culture.


  • Daniels, Brian I
  • Goode, G. Brown (George Brown) 1851-1896
  • National Museum of American History (U.S.) (NMAH)
  • National Museum of History and Technology (U.S.)
  • United States National Museum


Smithsonian History Bibliography


  • Daniels was a pre doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, 2006-2007.
  • Dissertation #3542794

Contained within


Contact information

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




  • History museums
  • Antiquities
  • History, American
  • Museums
  • Collection and preservation
  • History
  • Historical and Personal Relics
  • Historical Relics Collection
  • History exhibits
  • Museum visitors
  • Museums--History
  • Antiquities--Collection and preservation
  • Museum techniques
  • Material culture


Washington (D.C.)

Physical description

Number of pages: 303; Page numbers: 1-303

Full Record

View Full Record