The Origins of Puritan Politics in US Museums: Nation Building and "The Arts" from 1776 to 1806

Sheila K. Hoffman
2018 ICOFOM Study Series  
Established in 1776 by a Declaration of Independence from England, the early United States was in a unique cultural position. Much of what was considered art in Europe was condemned under religious moral codes and revolutionary fervor. Meanwhile the spirit of the Enlightenment encouraged the emerging nation to raise itself through scientific exploration, one of the most famous being the Lewis & Clark Expedition from 1804-1806. In this thirty-year period, the heady, sometimes volatile,
more » ... n of righteous morality and new-found power would forever mark the attitude towards "arts" in the United States and contribute to a unique iteration of museums and their practice. Using the first American science museum and art gallery, the Peale Museum, as a departure point, this paper explores the cultural environment of the early US to provide better insight on how early US religious attitudes continue to impact American museums. From modes of portraiture and the theater ban to the "Noble Savage", these historical factors 132 reveal a unique and complex foundation that continues to impact the nature of US museums.
doi:10.4000/iss.1025 fatcat:qusaqeobenerhei4diqmdtuuzm