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April 30, 2014 8:51 AM   Subscribe

My friend is graduating next month with a degree in Museum Studies. I'd like to get her a book as a graduation present. Can you recommend any good memoirs or biographies or popular nonfiction books set in the museum world? I would rather it not be mainly about heists or looting or art crime.
posted by bluefly to Writing & Language (13 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Well, there are a lot of different kinds of foci in museum studies degrees, so it would be helpful in making recommendations to know if your friend is more interested in art museums, history, natural history, anthropology, technology, etc., etc..

With that said, I can recommend Dry Storeroom No. 1.
posted by gudrun at 9:04 AM on April 30, 2014

I know this is crime right out of the gate, but The Island of Lost Maps.

I wonder if any of these books from the Cleveland Art book club might work?

Looks like lots of museums have book clubs. COol!
posted by tilde at 9:07 AM on April 30, 2014

Best answer: I don't know whether she'd appreciate this, but Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder is a pretty great book about curiosity cabinets in general and the Museum of Jurassic Technology and its founder in particular.

It's not Serious Museum Scholarship or anything like that, though, so just use your judgment as to whether she'd be into that sort of thing.
posted by ernielundquist at 9:13 AM on April 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: It's not Serious Museum Scholarship or anything like that, though, so just use your judgment as to whether she'd be into that sort of thing.

I don't really want to get anything that's Serious Museum Scholarship. That's what I meant by popular nonfiction (which may not be the right term). Just some fun reading. Your rec sounds great.
posted by bluefly at 9:21 AM on April 30, 2014

Best answer: Making the Mummies Dance by Thomas Hoving is rather fun.
posted by mdrew at 9:25 AM on April 30, 2014

Jonathan Harr's The Lost Painting is a quick-going (art history) detective story.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 9:40 AM on April 30, 2014

Anthony Blunt: His Lives is a fascinating biography of a man who was both a high-profile art historian and museum professional (Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures among other things) and a Soviet spy. It's about both art and crime, but not art crime!
posted by Jahaza at 10:04 AM on April 30, 2014

Just want to strongly 2nd Mr. Wilson's Cabinet. It's a really fun, oddball page-turner, but there's a lot of fascinating stuff about the history of museums in it too.
posted by neroli at 10:34 AM on April 30, 2014

I came in here to recommend Mr. Wilson's Cabinet and see that I've already been beaten (twice!). It's excellent. I'm not sure where your friend is located, but the museum that is featured in the book is in Los Angeles and is well worth a visit--it is CRAZYPANTS, in the best way possible.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 11:21 AM on April 30, 2014

Best answer: Eleanor Cameron's The Court of the Stone Children is one of the most wonderful museum books I have ever read. She completely understands the way museums allow you to enter the past, the stories that are associated with even the most mundane objects, the mystery and allure of the past and what it tells us about ourselves. Technically classified as a YA book, the themes of identity, belonging, philosophy, time and beauty make it one of those books that works regardless of age.

To make it a special present, lash out and find a copy of the original hardcover, with cover and illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman (one of the best children's book illustrators ever). Much better than the cheesy mass-market paperback.
posted by Athanassiel at 5:45 PM on April 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just finished The Lost Painting, recommended above, and it's a good choice.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:09 PM on May 1, 2014

Response by poster: So, it turns out my friend had already read Mr. Wilson's Cabinet (which she loved, good suggestion!), so I returned it, and gave her the Mummies book and Dry Storeroom No. 1, both of which she is looking forward to reading. And I bought The Court of Stone Children for myself to read. It is really wonderful and imaginative - right up my alley; thanks for recommending it, Athanassiel.
posted by bluefly at 8:09 PM on May 25, 2014

Glad you like it! It's one of those books I just fell in love with as an adolescent. It reassured me that there were other oddballs like myself, whilst also completely thrilling over the love story. When I read it now, it means different things to me, but it's still so special. Friend for life, that book.
posted by Athanassiel at 1:52 AM on May 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

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