Made in Newark: Cultivating Industrial Arts and Civic Identity in the Progressive Era

Made in Newark: Cultivating Industrial Arts and Civic Identity in the Progressive Era

Made in Newark: Cultivating Industrial Arts and Civic Identity in the Progressive Era

Made in Newark: Cultivating Industrial Arts and Civic Identity in the Progressive Era

Synopsis

What does it mean to turn the public library or museum into a civic forum? Made in Newark describes a turbulent industrial city at the dawn of the twentieth century and the ways it inspired the library's outspoken director, John Cotton Dana, to collaborate with industrialists, social workers, educators, and New Women.

This is the story of experimental exhibitions in the library and the founding of the Newark Museum Association- a project in which cultural literacy was intertwined with civics and consumption. Local artisans demonstrated crafts, connecting the cultural institution to the department store, school, and factory, all of which invoked the ideal of municipal patriotism. Today, as cultural institutions reappraise their relevance, Made in Newark explores precedents for contemporary debates over the ways the library and museum engage communities, define heritage in a multicultural era, and add value to the economy.

Excerpt

The invention of printing was the greatest event in history. It was the
first great machine, after the great city. the wide white band streams
into the marvel of the multiple press, receiving unerringly the indelible
impression of the human hopes, joys, and fears throbbing in the pulse
of this great activity, as infallibly as the gray matter of the human brain
receives the impression of the senses, to come forth millions of neatly
folded, perfected news sheets, teeming with vivid appeals to passions,
good or evil; weaving a web of intercommunication so far-reaching
that distance becomes as nothing, the thought of one man in one cor
ner of the earth one day visible to the naked eye of all men the next;
… so marvelously sensitive this wide white band streaming endlessly
from day to day.

        — Frank Lloyd Wright, “The Art and Craft of the Machine” (1901)

The Newark Public Library celebrated mechanized newspaper production in terms similar to those of Frank Lloyd Wright’s rhapsodic lecture, decreeing the press the modern paradigm of social engineering if not control. Dana played a central role in romanticizing the press, its seemingly limitless reach and its powers of persuasion, and saw it similarly as a reformer’s tool—a way to bring about the “democracy of art.” Like Hull-House, where Wright first gave the address which would later be transcribed as “The Art and Craft of the Machine,” the library was struggling to assert its influence and define new terms of engagement in public education. Complicating this vision of uplift, however, Dana also embraced Newark’s commercial ethos and logic, claiming . . .

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