Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation

12-2015

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Department

Fine Arts

Degree Program

Art (Creative) and Art History with a concentration in Critical and Curatorial Studies, MA

Committee Chair

Morrin, Peter

Committee Member

Begley, John

Committee Member

Kelland, Lara

Author's Keywords

corporate history; corporate museum; public museum; bourbon tourism; exhibition standards; museum history

Abstract

This work seeks to explore curatorial integrity in public museums and corporate history institutions by discussing historic preservation and display at The Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, KY. The history of curatorial narrative in public museums begins with elitist displays of state treasures in 16th century Europe and develops over centuries into publicly held, education based institutions. Emerging in the form of factory tours during the Industrial Revolution, many corporations today have moved beyond basic advertising and toward meaningful positioning of their company, not only in the market place, but also within community and national identities. A National Historic Landmark, Buffalo Trace Distillery is the oldest continuously operating distillery in the United States. As such, it boasts a rich history with connections to early settlement, industrial revolution, Prohibition, and modern innovations in distilling. As the Archivist at Buffalo Trace, my first curatorial responsibilities began with a collaboration to develop educational interpretation of the Old Taylor House, a historic home at the distillery, and populating expanded areas of the Visitor Center with historic materials. The combination of historic preservation with new construction expansion provides a unique backdrop to discuss integrity and narrative in corporate museums. Many doubt the voice of corporate history institutions, expecting persuasion in the place of authenticity. However, Buffalo Trace Distillery, like many museums, collects, preserves, and interprets their collection in hopes of using its materials to share its rich history with the public. I hope to demonstrate through research and methodology that theseinstitutions value accurate historical narrative, not solely as a marketing tool, but as a way to connect with their community and build knowledge about long-standing institutions within local, regional and national history. By connecting the Old Taylor House and Visitor Center displays to exhibition standards developed by the American Alliance of Museums committee, the National Association for Museum Exhibition, and demonstrating that the facility qualifies as a corporate museum by Victor Danilov’s standards. Finally, by making this claim I hope to call for increased recognition of corporate museums through the accreditation process by AAM. Though AAM has made great strides to become more inclusive in recent years, increased acceptance of corporate museums would benefit both corporations and the museum field as a whole.

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