This Is How You Tell A Country's History In 101 Objects by jmgallen []
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The Smithsonian's history of America in 101 objects

by Richard Kurin

  Print book : Biography

This Is How You Tell A Country's History In 101 Objects   (2018-05-28)


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by jmgallen


How do you tell a country’s history in physical objects within the collection of its national museum?  Author Richard Kurin and the Smithsonian Institution have tried in this delightful book.




As the title states, Kurin chose 101 objects representative of milestones in American history.  After the introduction the objects are chronologically organized in 17 chapters, each with a thematic title.  Usually the articles include a photo of the item or items and 5-8 pages of narrative.  The objects run the gamut: the natural, Bald Eagle; exploratory and settlement, Pocahontas’ Portrait, and a Plymouth Rock Fragment; the Declaration of Independence and Star-Spangles Banner (that awed me when I first saw it at age 9); inventions, Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin and John Deere’s Steel Plow; the art of Albert Bierstadt and James Whistler; pop culture represented by Mickey Mouse and the Kermit the Frog and many others.




This is a book to read through or peruse at your leisure.  Some objects will evoke memories.  For me that includes the Wright Brothers’ Flyer and “Spirit of St. Louis”, that I have repeatedly gazed on with admiration.  I learned from the comments, such as that Doughboys were prohibited from using Brownie’s to prevent unauthorized combat photos, that the Model T Ford could run on almost liquid fuel and that the need for uniforms during the Civil War sparked the advent of standard sizes.




At the end the author enumerates some of the items that did not make the list and how the hard choices of inclusion and exclusion were made.  He has skillfully discerned what to highlight.  Whether you are planning a visit to the Smithsonian, want to recall prior vacations or encounter its treasures through the printed page this tome is a book to read, savor and return to whenever your sense of wonder needs to be refreshed.

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