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The Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  277 ratings  ·  49 reviews
The Smithsonian Institution is America's largest, most important, and most beloved repository for the objects that define our common heritage. Now Under Secretary for Art, History, and Culture Richard Kurin, aided by a team of top Smithsonian curators and scholars, has assembled a literary exhibition of 101 objects from across the Smithsonian's museums that together offer ...more
Paperback, 784 pages
Published October 25th 2016 by Penguin Books (first published October 29th 2013)
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This review is unbiased and based upon a copy won through the Goodreads First Reads program.
May 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you have read A history of the world in 100 objects, this is like that, though confined to American history. The book includes maps, as well as a essays about the process and what was left out. Kurin includes items from all the museums of the Smithsonian, including the Zoo and the opening this year (2016) African-American museum.
❂ Jennifer
Mar 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Excellent! Really engaging writing, and relating American History from the perspective of not-so-obvious (and obvious) objects and the role they played. Highly recommended for the armchair historian.

Full review:
Jun 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I checked this book out on a whim from the library because I have always been interested in the Smithsonian and the exhibits. I was really amazed, and fascinated, by the depth and breadth of objects they chose. Each one was given special consideration, and each one was like a puzzle piece that told the story of our history. I learned a lot reading this book.
Great concept and photos of iconic objects found throughout America's history. This would be a great addition to a school library or as a supplemental text for classrooms.
I want to give this book two ratings.

In terms of the history I learned from the book I would give it a 4. As a social studies teacher, I have had some exposure to history, especially American history, but even I learned about new objects I had not heard of before, and I also learned new tidbits about objects I did know about. In general, I liked the selection of objects early on while reading the book. I thought it was a good sample to represent the path of American history, although
Jim Gallen
May 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How do you tell a country’s history in physical objects within the collection of its national museum? Author Richard Kurin and the Smithsonian Institution have tried in this delightful book.

As the title states, Kurin chose 101 objects representative of milestones in American history. After the introduction the objects are chronologically organized in 17 chapters, each with a thematic title. Usually the articles include a photo of the item or items and 5-8 pages of narrative. The obje
Apr 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I saw this book at the library and had to snag it. It's inspired by the British Museum's History of the World in 100 Objects, but localized to the US with objects from the Smithsonian. I really enjoyed the British Museum's presentation, and I LOVE the Smithsonian, so was pretty thrilled to find this.

Kurin doesn't hold back--the objects represent the good, the bad, and the ugly side of American history. There's obvious things like Lincoln's hat, the Star Spangled Banner, and Edison's lightbul
May 15, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book was like taking a tour of the Smithsonian with a very knowledgeable docent. Each highlighted object is connected to a story in American history and has an interesting backstory of how it was preserved and acquired by the museum. Very interesting, and would make a great supplemental textbook.
Dec 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book. Super informative, entertaining, and all around fun to read. It is really long, so be warned, but it really is interesting. I did not know that lots of folks consider it a coffee table book but I was in for the long haul, read the whole thing, and am so glad I did!
Allison Friederichs
So interesting. Some of the write-ups are a little dry, and even the most avid reader will take a LONG time to get through this. But it's worth it.
Junemarie Brandt
Aug 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book got bogged down by its own sense of importance.
Ashani  Hettige
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A good read through American History. The writer has had done a marvelous job by not only describing the artifact but the whole story behind it.
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-for-nerds
This is the type of book I love! This was inspired by the British Museum's History of the World, which I really enjoyed. What a fun way of learning or relearning our country's history.
Sep 25, 2019 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019-new
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: history buffs, people who like American pop culture, museum lovers
Shelves: reviewed
First I'd like to take the time to say if the Smithsonian isn't already one of your favorite museums it will be by the time you finish this book. This book is a weighty one not only does my paperback copy weigh a little over 3 pounds but the information inside makes this book a not so quick read. In this book Richard Kurin sorts through the Smithsonian's vast collections to find 101 objects that best tell the story of American History. These essays are around 3-4 pages each but pack in enough in ...more
Mar 15, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
David Ward
Apr 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
The Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects by Richard Kurin (The Penguin Press 2013)(973) is an incredibly thoughtful selection of physical objects that help tell the tale of our country from prehistory (e.g., "Clovis points" were created to bring down megafauna (big game) that is now extinct in North America) to the future (The Giant Magellan Telescope, which the Smithsonian is constructing in Chile, is so amazing that I must quote rather than paraphrase: "The telescope, in enabling u ...more
James (JD) Dittes
Kurin uses 101 artifacts from the Smithsonian's collections to vividly illustrate American culture. Each article is about an artifact--but it's about so much more than that. He carefully wends together inventions like the airplane and the light bulb with Abe Lincoln's hat, Ben Franklin's staff, and even the Stars & Strips of Fort McHenry in a tapestry of enlightened story-telling.

Along with information about each artifact, Kurin describes the process by which it came to reside in
Nov 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Originally got this from the library before a family vacation to Washington, D.C. and enjoyed it so much I bought a copy for myself at the National Museum of American History. My dad and I are both history buffs, so I would tell him fun facts from my reading whenever we encountered an object from the book in our sightseeing; it greatly enriched the trip for both of us.

It is a LOT of American history in one book, but what a fascinating way to view it! The objects help to connect you with the pas
Apr 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I normally don't read essays, which technically this is 101 of them. However, I recommend this to all history fans--and is a great gift. I overcame my fear of essays by reading one a day. Each one is fascinating--well written, clearly explained, and nicely illustrated. Of course you can't detail the history of anything in 101 objects so this is a selection. It starts with the Burgess Shale (half a billion years ago) and ends with the Giant Magellan Telescope, to be finished in 2020. The Smithson ...more
Nov 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I downloaded this book on my Nook prior to my trip to D.C.with my sister. We skipped among the pages reading about topics that interested us. Both of us gravitated toward the sciences and history. One of the highlights of our visit was seeing Martha, the last carrier pigeon. My sister teaches earth science and Martha is in her lectures about conservation, ecology and vanishing species.
Another favorite was the display of First Ladies gowns and history of the presidents. John Kennedy's fune
I enjoyed this one as much as The history of the world in 100 objects by Neil MacGregor. You don't have to read the whole book (it's a doorstop), just about the objects that interest you. I read the whole book, and learned a lot about a wide variety of topics in American History. It's the kind of book that is good for a mind that enjoys accumulating interesting trivia.
Haley Grizzell
Jul 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I found this to be a fascinating collection of things that are both familiar to me, and things I do not remember from visiting the Smithsonian museums. I was happy to see that #21 is the Nauvoo sunstone that my family took our picture in front of. Richard Kurin called it an artifact of the truly "American religion."
Carolyn Henckler marinari
If you love the Smithsonian and American History this is a MUST read! The book tells the story of 101 objects - the objects story, it's link to US History, and it's story of how it got to the museum. All groups and stories are represented. It would make a great textbook for an American history class paired with a creative teacher!
Jun 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great choice in preparing my early elementary school-aged son for our family trip to Washington DC. Given his young age he doesn't yet have a vast knowledge of history so it enabled us to discover what caught his eye and we learned more about the significance of those items before our journey. Then we had fun seeking them out at the various museums.
Dec 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a history nerd and a lover of museums and artifacts, this book was right up my alley. Some of the narrative was a bit dry, but overall this was a fascinating look at people and things that helped shape America.
Sep 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is a delightful review of 101 objects selected from the Smithsonian. They are shared in various periods or perspectives on the development of the United States with good contextualization for their period and why they were selected for this presentation today.
Got to item 34 Abraham Lincoln's Hat [location 3165 of 12419] after 2 checkouts of the ebook. Is pretty good but just can't seem to muster the will power to power through it.

It does address some sensitive history but it evades even more. Giving up 09 October 2016
Mar 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
enjoyable...worth the time--even if you just look at the pictures. can't imagine how difficult it was to choose these items to collective represent American history. makes me want to go to DC ASAP and spend lots of time in each of the Smithsonian museums again.
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