101 Objects and American History

By Megan Piette

It seems impossible to choose 101 objects – out of 137 million options – to tell the story of America. However, Richard Kurin, the under secretary of history, art, and culture at the Smithsonian Museum, has done exactly that with his new book, The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects. Some of Kurin’s choices are unique, like Benjamin Franklin’s walking stick or the 525 million-year-old Burgess Shale.  He explains on the Museum of American History blog that each object relates to the history of America in a way that could never be fully explained in a book.  Here is a taste of his post:

A lot of people think history is boring. They remember some awful history class they had to take in junior high school, but we’ve got 30 million people who voluntarily take history every year, walking into our museums. To me, it’s easier to approach history through an object. It hits you in a sensory way, rather than having to memorize something you can’t see; it’s tangible. Objects also relocate you.