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Editorial Reviews

“In this volume, editors Kathryn Leann Harris and Douglas Stark have created a comprehensive primer and handbook for the interpretation of sports in the context of museums. They’ve assembled an All-Star cast of scholars and museum professionals who’ve examined a topic that is nothing less than both a mirror in which society views itself and a prism through which one can understand as wide a variety of issues as one can possibly imagine. For sports possess the potential to foster understanding while transcending politics. Thus, within the context of museums, resides precious common ground. This remarkable thoroughly researched volume is nothing less than a blueprint for the maximization of such potential.”

– Richard A. Johnson

“Too often, sport museums focus on feel-good stories and commodified nostalgia, but the wide range of case studies in this collection provide plenty of examples of how to critically present and interpret sport history. It’s the book public history practitioners and museum professionals need.”

– Brian M. Ingrassia


Sports are intertwined with American society. Since the earliest forms of native games to today’s extreme competitions, sports have left an indelible mark on the fabric of American culture. Today, sports are a multibillion-dollar industry. Social media provides a never ceasing outlet for community interaction surrounding sporting events and discussions. At their core, sports are an opportunity for self-exploration through the lens of competition, social structures, and community building. Interpreting Sports at Museums and Historic Sites encourages museums, historical sites and cultural institutions to consider the history of sport as integral to American culture and society. Sports provide a vehicle to understanding the growth and development of America from colonization to globalization. Central to this work is a call to bring a balanced view of humanity to the sports commemoration conversation.

Museums can and should be places of advocacy and inclusion for all athletes and sports figures: young & old, ametuer & professional, past & present. Practitioners are encouraged to consider museums as safe spaces to approach empathetic, complex, enthralling conversations that allow for both celebratory and challenging topics. This comprehensive study provides analytical direction and practical application for interpreting sports history at a variety of sites; guiding sports and non-sports museum professionals alike. A robust series of essays illuminate the innovative, forward thinking nature of sport exhibition and programming that is an active part of the American museum experience.

Thirty-two national and international authors take an honest look at the ways sports impacts culture and culture impacts sports. Six thematic essays uncover the particularities of navigating the sports historical landscape alongside an actively engaged, present-day audience. Then, a wide selection of case studies explore successful and unsuccessful attempts at attracting the public and engaging in educational discussion around both uplifting and difficult sports topics. Opportunities for including sports in exhibition planning and programmatic development are a key benefit of this practical guide. You’ll discover an astounding variety of viewpoints and methods for offering popular sports programming into your institutional programming and outreach efforts. From a fun mix of museum professionals, historians, and sports personnel comes this complete guide to developing and implementing a more cohesive story of sport history within your institution.

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