Reading List

List Creator

Bridget Gayle Ground

AIA Austin, Austin Foundation for Architecture

Architecture and design histories in museum exhibitions

These readings were consulted for my master’s thesis, “Engaging Displays of Architecture and Design History: Approaches to Museum Exhibition Practice.”


  • Place and Displacement: Exhibiting Architecture.

    Zürich: Lars Müller Publishers, 2014.

    This collection of essays-- based on a 2013 symposium of the same name-- is organized by three themes that provide a framework for considering how exhibitions shape architectural thought: the exhibition as site for discourse; the role of institutions in developing exhibitions and the influence of their (the institutions') disciplinary practices; and the concept and role of representation in the circulation of architectural information.

  • “Exhibiting Intention: Some Preconditions of the Visual Display of Culturally Purposeful Objects.”

    Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display, edited by Ivan Karp and Steven D. Lavine, 33–41.

    Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991.

    In this essay the late art historian and former V&A curator Michael Baxandall considers the subjectivity in how exhibitions generating new meaning from the past. He describes how the contexts of three “cultural terms” in an exhibition—its organizers, objects, and viewers—simultaneously act upon each other to prompt unique interpretations. It is the unpredictable “space between object and [organizer-authored] label” where interpretation takes place, according to the organizers' and visitors' own personal experiences, reflections, and reactions.

  • “Theses on the Philosophy of History.”

    Illuminations, 253–264. Translated by 
Harry Zohn.

    New York: Schocken Books, 1969.

    Int his essay Benjamin reflects on the value of understanding history as a series of authentic, unique moments rather than as a smooth and linear narrative, and observes the capacity of material objects to achieve the former by bearing information about the events and tensions that took place around and are crystalized within them, and thus “blasting a specific life out of the era or a specific work out of the lifetime.” By featuring such historically-charged objects in an exhibition, it can achieve a balance of a diachronic and synchronic approach to history, at once encapsulating particular instances in time and placing them in their broader historical contexts.

  • “The Exhibitionary Complex.”

    Culture, Power, History, edited by Nicholas B. Dirks, Geoff Eley, and Sherry B. Ortner, 123–154.

    Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994.

    Bennett's essay shows how the emergence of the public-oriented museum in the mid-nineteenth century resulted in new approaches to communicating information to society-at-large, including new disciplinary and display conventions.

  • Online

    “Out of Site in Plain View: A History of Exhibiting Architecture since 1750.”

    A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., April 7–May 12, 2013.

    These lectures provide a “genealogy” of the architectural exhibition, tracing its history since the nineteenth century and proposing new directions for its practice, such as an emphasis on process over product. While Bergdoll focuses on the capacity of the contemporary exhibition to instigate debate within the field of architecture and design, I will focus on its capacity to educate a general public.

  • “Beyond Collection Work: The Evolving Role for Curators.”

    Museum May/June 2017, 13–15.

    This article discusses AAM’s 2014 “Curator Core Competencies.” Emphasizes publishing given its longevity compared to temporality of exhibitions as well as a means to “extend the outreach and relevance of curatorial work” (14). It also points to the increasing collaborations with “community curators,” meaning that the curator is becoming a liaison or connector who facilitates interpretation of materials by others. (15)

  • "Critical Disciplinarity."

    Critical Inquiry 30, no. 2 (2004): 355–60.

  • “Mirror of Dreams.”

    Log 20 (2010): 49–53.

  • "Memory, Distortion and History in the Museum."

    Museum Studies, edited by Bettina Messias Carbonell, 2012

    Wiley-Blackwell.

  • “Locating Authenticity: Fragments of a Dialogue.”

    Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display, edited by Ivan Karp and Steven D. Lavine, 159–175, 1991.

    Washington: Smithsonian

    CHECK. This article considers characteristics that contribute to the perception of authenticity in exhibitions, including objects—noting the resonance of common, mass-produced items of the recent past, and the challenges related to their acquisition and preservation—and exhibition design—noting the ways in which objects are transformed by their placement within an exhibition, and the primacy of the multi-sensorial experience of an exhibition over its objects or ideas.

  • “Resonance and Wonder.”

    Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display, edited by Ivan Karp and Steven D. Lavine, 42–56, 1991.

    Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press

    CHECK. This article provides a model for creating meaningful engagement with nuanced content through exhibition design that balances a sense of “resonance”—or that which “pulls the viewer away from the celebration of isolated objects and toward a series of implied, only half-visible relationships and questions…”—with a sense of “wonder”—or that which can “stop the viewer in his or her tracks, to convey an arresting sense of uniqueness, to evoke an exalted attention.” Greenblatt suggests that wonder be employed to attract attention to and foster a desire for resonance, a particularly compelling theory when considering the capacity of analog objects to engage attention in the digital age.

  • Online

    "Architecture's Place in the Museum."

    Archinect, Aug. 17 2016.

  • “What is the Object of this Exercise?”

    Daedalus 128, no. 3 (Summer 1999): 163–183.

    CHECK. Gurian argues that the value of museums lay not in its objects but in its role as a civilizing space for multi-sensory learning and for the formation of new ideas. It raises questions about the goals of exhibition environments and opportunities for interaction, and about the preservation of such experiences, which might be achieved today through digital documents and publications.

  • Harris, Dianne.

    Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 70, no. 2 (June 2011): 149–52.

    CHECK. Harris observes the insular nature of the field of architectural history and considers the benefits of opening the discourse to broad, cross-disciplinary perspectives. This argument served as a basis for Harris's plenary talk at the 2014 conference of the Society of Architectural Historians in Austin, TX, in which she called for architectural historians to engage with the public by acting as moderators of pubic discourse, and utilizing high-quality presentation and digital resources to expand the reach of historians’ work and to increase engagement with the public.

  • “Storehouses of Knowledge: The Origins of the Contemporary Architectural Museum.”

    Canadian Centre for Architecture: Building and Gardens, edited by Larry Richards.

    Montreal: CCA, 1989.

    This essay traces the history of the architectural museum, with an emphasis on collecting traditions, from the collection of drawings and sketches and casts and fragments, to, in the twentieth century, papers and correspondence in analog and digital form (though he fails to give substantial attention to photography as a “media of architectural display”).

  • Online

    "Museums, Merchandising, and Popular Taste: The Struggle for Influence"

    In in Material Culture and the Study of American Life. ed. Ian M. G. Quimby (New York: Norton, 1978).

    This article includes a useful history of the modern period room, and identifies the Met as being among the first art museums to showcase its decorative arts holdings within contextual displays evocative of the objects’ origins and uses.

  • “An Introduction to the Museum.”

    Sir John Soane’s Museum London

    London: Merrell Publishers Limited, 2009.

  • “The Cultural Biography of Things: Commoditization as Process."

    The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, edited by Arjun Appadurai, 64–94.

    Cambridge University Press, 1988.

    CHECK Kopytoff considers how biographies are constructed and applied to (or extracted from) objects, and how cultural ideas of biography affect the commoditization and thus circulation of an object.

  • "Designing the Past: History-Museum Exhibitions from Peale to the Present.”

    History Museums in the United States: A Critical Assessment, edited by Warren Leon and Roy Rosenzweig, 2–37.

    Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989.

    This article provides an overview of trends and approaches to the design of historical exhibitions U.S., considering the varying levels of emphasis on didactic information and narrative, as well as on the sheer number of objects displayed.

  • “The Architectural Museum, A Founder’s Perspective.”

    In Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 58, no. 3 (September 1999)

    CHECK Lambert considers the history of architectural museum and its value as an institution for research and scholarly inquiry. She discusses institutional activities that develop the field beyond collecting and exhibition, such as documenting the field through photography commissions, publishing, and engaging scholars through visiting scholar programs.

  • Online

    “Setting a Place for History.”

    The New York Times.

  • “Relics.”

    The Past is a Foreign Country, 238–48.

    Cambridge University Press, 1985.

    This chapter describes the sense of tension (and history) created by the present-day encounter of relics of the past, which are recognized through the processes of aging, embellishment, and anachronism. Lowenthal observes that relics are effective in communicating history in that they bear witness to everyday life with minimal bias, potentially filling archival silences; are accessible by direct, sensorial experience, which can be encountered less consciously than textual history; and provide proof of their history and lasting relevance through their scarcity in and contrast to the present day. Meanwhile, Lowenthal observes the 'defect' of reliquary knowledge in requiring interpretation to explain their context and significance. He concludes, "relics render the past more important but not better known."

  • pdf

    Built in USA: Since 1932.

    New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1945.

    As the first museum to have a curatorial department dedicated to architecture—initially founded as the Department of Architecture in 1932, then renamed the Department of Architecture and Industrial Design, and now the Department of Architecture and Design—MoMA made important contributions to defining the bounds of the discipline and to raising an awareness of it among the American public. The introduction and appendices to Mock's catalogue provide an excellent overview of the history of the museum's architecture department.

  • Exhibiting Architecture: A Paradox?

    New Haven: Yale School of Architecture, 2015.

  • Online

    “MoMA to Organize Collections That Cross Artistic Boundaries.”

    New York Times, Dec. 15, 2015.

    CHECK This article offers examines MoMA’s ongoing architectural renovations to provide insight into twenty-first-century curatorial practice. Through its redesigned building, MoMA announced its shift away from organizing exhibitions according to linear chronologies and single-disciplinary perspectives, and toward a more interdisciplinary and ground-up approach. This marks a shift in museum practice (in the article MoMA’s chief curator Ann Temkin comments, “I’m not naïve about the fact that the Museum of Modern Art is a very influential institution, but I think the way we can be influential today is different”) and establishes a case for the representation of architecture, its creation, and reception through interdisciplinary collections.

  • As Seen: Exhibitions that Made Architecture and Design History.

    Art Institute of Chicago, 2017.

    CHECK [Lavin, Antonelli, publications, CCA perspective]

  • “Images of New England: Documenting the Built Environment.”

    American Archivist 50, no. 4 (Fall 1987), 474–498.

    CHECK This article describes the variety of materials pertinent to architectural history and the network of institutions in which they are collected. While her article focuses on the value of architectural collections for historic preservation efforts, and is restricted to relevant collections in the Northeast region of the U.S., her discussion has broader relevance. She points to the value of architectural collections for public engagement and education through exhibitions, and her argument for cross-institutional coordination of collecting practices for the development of a rich, comprehensive body of records has applications for museum exhibition practice, particularly in the digital age.

  • The Power of Display: A History of Exhibition Installations at the Museum of Modern Art.

    Cambridge: MIT Press, 1998.

    CHECK Staniszewski surveys and analyzes exhibition display techniques at MoMA in the twentieth century, considering the impacts of installations on the perceived meaning of objects within, and on the experience of the museum visit.

  • Online

    “Expanded Audiences and the “Second Building": An Interview with CCA Director Mirko Zardini.”

    ArchDaily, June 1, 2017.

    REVISIST: This interview discusses how the CCA’s website was redesigned to serve as a platform for critical discourse about architecture across an international community. This project illustrates an expansion of the traditional concept of the museum from a physical space for in-person interaction with objects and narratives, to a digital space-- made possible by the internet age-- where diverse materials, perspectives, and institutions can come together to engage in a dialogue that is more contextualized and diverse, bring fresh perspectives to collections, identifying narratives that have previously been overlooked.

  • pdf

    Gallery Text at the V&A: A Ten Point Guide.

  • "Museums and Controversy.”

    Mickey Mouse History

    Temple University Press, 1996.

    REVISIT In this essay Wallace considers the importance of engaging museum visitors with socially relevant, even if challenging, topics, observing that museums fall behind in this effort when compared with theater and the visual arts. To increasingly integrate multifaceted points of view in museums, he suggests breaking down the idea of curatorial authority through collaborations between historians, curators, and librarians He also makes an interesting case for interdisciplinarity, warning museums not to become “like magazines” that allow individuals to delve into personal interests and lifestyles at the exclusion of others, but to introduce its audiences to a diverse, even if challenging, range of content.

  • “Discipline-Person"

    The Aesthetics of Equity: Notes on Race, Space, Architecture, and Music

    University of Minnesota Press, 2007

    MAYBE ADD TO HARRIS ENTRY?

  • The Modern Eye: Stieglitz, MoMA, and the Art of the Exhibition, 1925–1934.

    Yale University Press, 2009

    REVISIT This book considers how institutions such as MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art presented and popularized modern art to the general public through exhibitions and marketing methods.

  • American Art Museum Architecture: Documents and Design.

    New York and London: W. W. Norton and Company, 2010.

  • What "No!" Means for Architectural Conservation: The Secret Life of Drawings in Collections

    The Secret Life of Buildings. Center 21.

    Austin: Center for American Architecture and Design, 2018.

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