Date of Award

2018

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in History

Specialization

U. S. History

Department

History

First Advisor

Rod Mather

Abstract

While larger living history museums have been frequently studied by scholars, smaller museums, like Coggeshall Farm Museum in Bristol, Rhode Island receive far less attention. Utilizing historical and institutional records, historical monographs, and literature from the fields of museum studies and anthropology, this study examines authenticity in the museum setting using Coggeshall Farm Museum as a case study, suggesting that despite the museum’s search for historical accuracy, the institution remains inauthentic to recorded history. It argues that the history and interpretation of Coggeshall Farm Museum was intimately intertwined and influenced by the historical perceptions, biases, and dynamics of the museum’s leadership. The study identifies two important periods in the museum’s history, the first from 1967-1984 and the second from 1984-2003. These periods were instrumental in shaping the museum’s identity, yet they also suggest that the ability of the institution to thrive and to prosper depended upon a clearly defined mission, vision, and strong finances. The significant challenges faced by the institution clearly impacted the organization's ability to serve the public and to survive.

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