For this critical review, I chose to visit the National Museum of American History. The Museum has more than 40 exhibits. The exhibit I chose is called “His Master’s Voice.” It is organized by Dr. Sarah Johnson and it examines the development of recorded sound and its social effects. This exhibit offers a chance to view a variety of items and artifacts dating from the earliest days of recorded sound through contemporary technologies. It shows the beginnings of recorded sound through the use of five creations that helped shape the way we perceive sound today.
The exhibit is divided into themed sections, each of which emphasizes a different feature of recorded sound. In the first part, “Invention and Innovation,” early phonographs and gramophones are shown along with some of the earliest Edison wax cylinders. The second half “Music and Performance,” examines how recorded sound changed the music business and popular culture. Everything from antique sheet music to cutting-edge recording technology can be found in this section.
The exhibit’s innovative use of digital technology to improve the visitor experience is one of its most notable aspects. There is a number of interactive stations at the exhibit that allow visitors of the museum to explore the development of recording technology and listen to early recordings. There was a display with ear pieces you can use to listen to different sounds and instruments displayed on the screen with the matching descriptions. Also, the exhibit is filled with QR codes that lead to extra details and multimedia resources.
The exhibit’s entire premise is that recorded music has changed the course of human history. Recorded sound has enabled new forms of communication and expression, revolutionized how we enjoy music and other types of entertainment, and established new industries and economic opportunities by enabling us to collect and preserve sound.
This exhibit has a wide range of potential viewers, from casual museum visitors to experts and fans of music, technology, and cultural history. All visitors, regardless of their age or background, find the exhibit to be interesting and accessible, and the use of digital technology makes the content more interesting and accessible for younger audiences.
I spoke to one of the guides to get some help with this question in particular and she was able to give me some information. The need to get and display rare and delicate pieces from various institutions and private collections was one of the difficulties in creating this exhibit. It was difficult to gather all the pieces and properly display them. The curators also had to balance between preserving the integrity of the displayed artifacts and provide historical context while also showcasing cutting-edge technology. With that being said, I think the exhibit is well-done and accomplishes its intended goals.
The “His Master’s Voice” exhibit offers a fascinating look into the development of recorded sound and its social effects overall. The exhibit makes a strong case for recorded sound’s transformative power while utilizing digital technologies to improve the visitor experience. Even though the exhibit raises some unanswered questions and issues, particularly regarding the social and cultural ramifications of recorded sound such as the impact on the music industry and communication, it is still an important contribution to the field of cultural history and is highly recommended for anyone interested in the development of technology and how it has impacted society.
I enjoyed this exhibit very much and would love to continue visiting other exhibits and museums. I have been to nearly all the museums in Washington D.C. yet I have never thought so deeply about an exhibit. I definitely had to research the artifacts and the inventions and learn about the history of them and how meaningful and impactful they are to really be able to appreciate the exhibit. I think it was such an interesting and unique exhibit to include because when first entering the museum, I expected to see things about significant historical events such as the Revolutionary War or the Civil Rights movement. It was a surprise to see exhibits that are focused on other aspects of American history besides wars and battles.