Otis T. Mason's Tour of Europe: Observation, Exchange, and Standardization in Public Museums, 1889

Sally Kohlstedt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


When the Smithsonian's curator of anthropology, Otis T. Mason, took a two-month tour of European museums, he participated in a tradition of learning from museum peers even as he demonstrated one way that international standards for museum practice were shared and extended in the late nineteenth century. In this era of major museum building, an emerging group of professional administrators were increasingly self-conscious about the status of their own institutions and eager to adopt state-of-the-art practices. Mason's tour was timed to enable him to attend the specialized society meetings held in conjunction with the Jubilee International Exposition in Paris in 1889. The rest of his tour was spent visiting museums in Britain and northern Europe where he met leading museum administrators including William Flower, Adolph B. Meyer, and Adolph Bastian. Mason's letters to the National Museum's director, George Brown Goode, and to his wife, Sallie Mason, and daughters, Sallie and Emilie, offer a valuable window on European museums in the late nineteenth century and reveal the networks that facilitated an exchange of materials and ideas among a museum specialists and administrators as they established increasingly similar standards of museum practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-208
Number of pages28
JournalMuseum History Journal
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 1 2008
Externally publishedYes


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