The Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects by Richard Kurin

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Kurin does a terrific job of expanding upon the story of each object, whether it’s a pair of slave shackles or a damaged door from one of the New York City fire trucks that responded to 9/11. This humanistic approach to storytelling...makes for immersive, addictive reading.
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

The Smithsonian Institution is America's largest, most important, and most beloved repository for the objects that define our common heritage. Now Under Secretary for Art, History, and Culture Richard Kurin, aided by a team of top Smithsonian curators and scholars, has assembled a literary exhibition of 101 objects from across the Smithsonian's museums that together offer a marvelous new perspective on the history of the United States.

Ranging from the earliest years of the pre-Columbian continent to the digital age, and from the American Revolution to Vietnam, each entry pairs the fascinating history surrounding each object with the story of its creation or discovery and the place it has come to occupy in our national memory. Kurin sheds remarkable new light on objects we think we know well, from Lincoln's hat to Dorothy's ruby slippers and Julia Child's kitchen, including the often astonishing tales of how each made its way into the collections of the Smithsonian. Other objects will be eye-opening new discoveries for many, but no less evocative of the most poignant and important moments of the American experience. Some objects, such as Harriet Tubman's hymnal, Sitting Bull's ledger, Cesar Chavez's union jacket, and the Enola Gay bomber, tell difficult stories from the nation's history, and inspire controversies when exhibited at the Smithsonian. Others, from George Washington's sword to the space shuttle Discovery, celebrate the richness and vitality of the American spirit. In Kurin's hands, each object comes to vivid life, providing a tactile connection to American history.

Beautifully designed and illustrated with color photographs throughout, The Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects is a rich and fascinating journey through America's collective memory, and a beautiful object in its own right.

 

About Richard Kurin

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Richard Kurin serves as the Smithsonian Institution's Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture, with responsibility for most of its museums and many of its educational programs. He is an anthropologist and cultural historian, a former Fulbright fellow with a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He is the author of several books, including Hope Diamond: The Legendary History of a Cursed Gem, and his scholarship and museological work have been recognized by the International Council of Museums, UNESCO, and Harvard's Peabody Museum. Awarded the Smithsonian Secretary's Gold Medal for Exceptional Service, he represents the Smithsonian on the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, the White House Historical Association, and numerous other boards.
 
Published October 29, 2013 by Penguin Press. 784 pages
Genres: History, Crafts, Hobbies & Home, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects
All: 3 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 0

Kirkus

Good
on Sep 10 2013

...Kurin closes with some of the tools of our time, from Chuck Berry’s guitar to the first Apple computer and on to galaxies far beyond our own. A well-conceived and well-illustrated pleasure to read, combining narrative history and keepsake volume.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Jul 22 2013

Kurin does a terrific job of expanding upon the story of each object, whether it’s a pair of slave shackles or a damaged door from one of the New York City fire trucks that responded to 9/11. This humanistic approach to storytelling...makes for immersive, addictive reading.

Read Full Review of The Smithsonian's History of ... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by Glenn C Altschuler on Dec 21 2013

In this beautifully illustrated book, Richard Kurin, undersecretary for art, history and culture at the Smithsonian, uses 101 objects from the institution’s vast collections to illuminate four thematic strands that recur throughout American history...

Read Full Review of The Smithsonian's History of ... | See more reviews from Star Tribune

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