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Radical Conservations: The Problem with the London Museum

Radical Conservations: The Problem with the London Museum Page 43 Jordanna Bailkin hen the London Museum opened its doors on March 5, 1912, the idea of the museum-going public underwent a fundamental change. The museum, originally housed in Kensington Palace, was established in 1911 by Liberal M. P. Lewis (“Loulou”) Harcourt and Reginald (“Regy”) Brett, Viscount Esher, to memorialize the social, domestic, and public life of Londoners past and present. This definition encompassed items from a Roman ship excavated by the London County Council (LCC) and a collection of policeman’s buttons to a theatrical museum of playbills and Queen Victoria’s “funny little fat shoes.”1 But what really perturbed the journalists and politicians at the opening ceremony was not the range or content of the collections. It was the museum’s “abnormal” popularity with the greater London public.2 While statistics on attendance were strikingly absent, the belief that the London Museum embodied a new nexus between high and low culture—an unprecedented connection between the museological and the masses — was universal in the press during the museum’s early years. As Britain’s first concerted attempt at a “folk” museum,3 the London Museum elevated everyday objects — what James Deetz has referred to as “the small things forgotten” of household http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Radical History Review Duke University Press

Radical Conservations: The Problem with the London Museum

Radical History Review , Volume 2002 (84) – Oct 1, 2002

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright 2002 by MARHO: The Radical Historians' Organization, Inc.
ISSN
0163-6545
eISSN
1534-1453
DOI
10.1215/01636545-2002-84-43
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Page 43 Jordanna Bailkin hen the London Museum opened its doors on March 5, 1912, the idea of the museum-going public underwent a fundamental change. The museum, originally housed in Kensington Palace, was established in 1911 by Liberal M. P. Lewis (“Loulou”) Harcourt and Reginald (“Regy”) Brett, Viscount Esher, to memorialize the social, domestic, and public life of Londoners past and present. This definition encompassed items from a Roman ship excavated by the London County Council (LCC) and a collection of policeman’s buttons to a theatrical museum of playbills and Queen Victoria’s “funny little fat shoes.”1 But what really perturbed the journalists and politicians at the opening ceremony was not the range or content of the collections. It was the museum’s “abnormal” popularity with the greater London public.2 While statistics on attendance were strikingly absent, the belief that the London Museum embodied a new nexus between high and low culture—an unprecedented connection between the museological and the masses — was universal in the press during the museum’s early years. As Britain’s first concerted attempt at a “folk” museum,3 the London Museum elevated everyday objects — what James Deetz has referred to as “the small things forgotten” of household

Journal

Radical History ReviewDuke University Press

Published: Oct 1, 2002

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