The Public Historian
Exhibiting Antimodernism: History, Memory, and the Aestheticized Past in Mid-twentieth-century America
Stuart D. Hobbs

Abstract

In "Exhibiting Antimodernism: History, Memory and the Aestheticized Past in Mid-Twentieth-Century America," Stuart D. Hobbs explores the reasons why aesthetic concerns have trumped history and turned too many historic house museums into decorative arts museums. Hobbs uses the 1950s restoration of a house designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe as a case study. He argues that the painstaking research required for the restoration created a momentum of its own, and the story of the house as architecture and the story of the interior as decorative arts became the story at this and other historic sites. More fundamentally, though, he maintains that the antimodernism of many history museum professionals drew them to decorative arts interpretations. These antimodernists rejected twentieth century urbanism, mass production, and perceived cultural homogeneity. Anxious about a contemporary American society they interpreted as in decline, antimodernists celebrated an idealized artisan past as a means to cultural renewal.

Log in through your institution