Rick Beard’s latest article discusses the interpretive revolution in museums during the 1980s and ’90s, and how high-profile interpretive controversies at the Maryland Historical Society and National Air and Space Museum challenged these tenets.

Mining the Museum at MHS and the Smithsonian’s Enola Gay exhibit both created a stir with their content and interpretive methods in ways that divided audiences. These projects prompted discipline-wide discussions about interpreting conflict and framing narratives that still resonate today.


The next great revolution in interpretation has already begun, as museums, in partnerships with their audiences, move to craft transformative experiences that engage visitors of all ages. Success will rely upon the history community’s ability to fuse the new technology and social media with its greatest assets — real objects, places, stories, lives, and ideas.