If you are interested in the relationship between American religious history, museums, historical sites, and public history, I highly recommend that you get a copy (or ask your library to order a copy) of Gretchen Buggeln’s and Barbara Franco’s new book Interpreting Religion and Museums and Historic Sites.
The book includes essays on interpreting religion at religious sites, historic sties, and museums. These sites include Arch Street Meeting House (Philadelphia), California Missions Trail, Ephrata Cloister, Joseph Smith Family Farm. U.S. Capitol, Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, Colonial Williamsburg, Mount Vernon, Gettysburg, Lower East Side Tenement Museum, Yorktown, Arab American National Museum, Jewish Museum of Maryland, Minnesota History Center, National Museum of African American History and Culture, National Museum of American History, and Winterthur Museum.
Buggeln, the Phyllis and Richard Duesenberg Chair in Christianity and the Arts at Valparaiso University, offers essays on “Scholarly Approaches for Religion in History Museums” and “Religion in Museum Spaces and Places.” Franco, the former executive director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and the founding director of the Gettysburg Seminary Ridge Museum, offers two essays: “Issues in Historical Interpretation: Why Interpreting Religion is So Difficult” and “Strategies and Techniques for Interpreting Religion.” Buggeln and Franco team-up for another essay: “Interpreting Religion at Museums and Historic Sites: The Work Ahead.”
This is a wonderful collection and I was honored that Buggeln and Franco asked me to write a blurb:
I have been waiting for a book like this for a long time. Gretchen Buggeln and Barbara Franco have gathered an impressive collection of essays by museum professionals and public historians who have thought deeply about the place of religion in some of our most important cultural institutions. This is a landmark volume. (John Fea, Chair and Professor of History, Messiah College, author of Why Study History: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past).
This book should be in the library of every public historian, museum and historical site educator, and American religious historian.