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"Conn's well-written essays centralize objects as the defining feature of museums as they shifted (albeit incompletely) from being places of public instruction to being places of private consumption, from taxonomic exhibits to narrative ones, influenced by the development of the academic disciplines of science, anthropology, and art history. . . . An interesting and significant contribution to the literatures of museum studies and public history."—American Historical Review
"Steven Conn provides an eclectic, provocative, and extremely readable tour of the history of museums in the twentieth-century United States. . . . The easy erudition and wit of Do Museums Still Need Objects? Will appeal to lay readers and museum practitioners, and its hardheaded historical approach and bold opinions will raise debate among scholars in the field of museum studies and cultural history."—Journal of American History
"Steven Conn offers a refreshing look at museums and many of the debates surrounding their development and practices over the past forty years. He is right to frame his inquiry by asking if museums still need objects. Too often these debates have ignored the very characteristic that defines museums and distinguishes them from all other cultural institutions: they collect, preserve, and present things. This is an important, timely book."—James Cuno, President and Director, Art Institute of Chicago
"In this provocative and engaging book, Steven Conn considers the continuing role museums play in contemporary American society. Despite recent shifts in their priorities, Conn argues that museums and their collections possess tremendous potential as sites of learning and places where civic identity is shaped and sustained. Do Museums Still Need Objects? is a must-read for anyone thinking about the social and cultural significance of museums at the beginning of the twenty-first century."—Raymond Silverman, University of Michigan