Faith in Objects: American Missionary Expositions in the Early Twentieth Century

Article excerpt

Faith in Objects: American Missionary Expositions in the Early Twentieth Century. By Erin L. Hasinoff. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. Pp. xiv, 269. $85 /£55.

Missiologists are generally familiar with the Ecumenical Missionary Conference held at Carnegie Hall in New York City in April 1900, attended by up to 200,000 people over a ten-day period and addressed by President William McKinley and former president Benjamin Harrison. But how many know about "The World in Boston," a twenty-four-day exhibition held in the Mechanics Building in 1911? It was "America's First Great Missionary Exposition," modeled after a similar display in London in 1908 called "Orient in London." The latter inspired a series of U.S. denominational expositions, including the 1919 Methodist missionary exposition in Columbus, Ohio, described as the Methodist World's Fair, which attracted over one million visitors.

Such exhibitions are the focus of this volume by Erin L. Hasinoff, a fellow in museum anthropology at the Bard Graduate Center and in the Division of Anthropology of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), both in New York City. The author treats the Boston exposition as "a lens for understanding the way in which many Americans tacitly apprehended their collective contributions to evangelism through the material culture of mission," described as an "ethnology of collecting" (4). …

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