Author Shales, Ezra
Title John Cotton Dana and the business of enlightening Newark: Applied art at the Newark Public Library and Museum, 1902--1929
book jacket
Descript 399 p
Note Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 67-07, Section: A, page: 2361
Adviser: Kenneth L. Ames
Thesis (Ph.D.)--The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture, 2007
The dissertation is a case study of how exhibitions of applied art were used as ideological tools to prescribe civic behavior in one of the twenty most important industrial cities in the United States during the Progressive Era. Its focus is on John Cotton Dana (1856-1929), librarian and museum founder, and the exhibitions he coordinated in Newark, New Jersey, at the Free Public Library and the Newark Museum between 1902 and 1929. Dana promised Newark that culture had "cash-value" and that a museum would promote economic and moral benefits. He focused on applied art as a political and educational instrument to foster "good taste" in Newark's largely immigrant population. I contextualize Dana's mission of taste-making in relation to other political-aesthetic agencies of the Progressive Era that sought to improve civic life, from Hull-House to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Responding to the broader historical discourse, I complicate prior characterizations of the director, his museum, and the era as "Progressive" by exploring whether Dana's mission of enlightenment was dedicated to the welfare of its citizens or to the economic prosperity of Newark's retailers and manufacturers. My focus on exhibitions which displayed New Jersey products such as vases and toilets has three aims: to apply material culture analysis to installation methods and exhibitions (and avoid the bias inherent to segregating "fine art" and "library" artifacts); to examine the ways Dana positioned applied art, including handicrafts, industrially manufactured goods, and historicist ornament, as "progressive reform"; and to argue that his attempt to make a museum "intimate with commerce" was driven by his location in Newark. Dana's method of framing goods such as comic books and department-store teacups is reconsidered in relation to European as well as American influences, as are his many other innovations, from opening the first business library to holding the first exhibitions of Cubist painting and Deutscher Werkbund commercial art in America. I challenge traditional interpretations of the histories of the library and museum as distinct narratives, and restore the connections between exhibitions of Japanese prints, new Pictorialist photography, traditional plaster casts, and local ceramic factory and studio production
School code: 0279
Host Item Dissertation Abstracts International 67-07A
Subject Biography
History, United States
Art History
Design and Decorative Arts
Library Science
Alt Author The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture