From Collections to Curriculums: Object Loans for Schools at the American Museum of Natural History, 1903–1919

Lunchtime Lectures
Wednesday, March 3, 2021
1:00 p.m.–1:45 p.m. EST (UTC -5)

By the early 20th century, American school teachers and administrators had come to recognize the educational potential of research-based science museums. This talk focuses on one particularly successful and influential school-museum partnership: the object loan program started in 1903 by George Sherwood, an assistant curator of invertebrate zoology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Responding to requests from teachers, Sherwood spearheaded the creation of hundreds of suitcase-sized specimen collections that were rotated among hundreds of NYC schools, reaching almost one million students in the 1909 school year alone. Sherwood’s deference to teacher needs—which guided both the design of the collections and how he staffed the museum’s growing education department—was key to program’s success.



D. O. McCullough headshot

D. O. McCullough

About the Speaker

David Oliver (D. O.) McCullough is the current Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow at the American Philosophical Society Library and Museum, where he is curating an exhibit on the history of climate science that will open in 2022. He holds a PhD from the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Science Education program in the department of curriculum and instruction. His research explores the history of educators and educational programs in American science museums, focusing on their respective influence on the development of science museums as institutions. His dissertation is a historical case study of teacher support programs offered at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City from 1880 to 1962, which illuminated the central role that school administrators and educators played in building the museum’s status as an authority on classroom instructional methods. He is also actively researching the history of educational programs at the Franklin Institute’s science museum. Prior to becoming a historian, he worked as an informal science educator in museums and nature centers. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Marine and Environmental Science from Hampton University and a master’s degree in education, culture, and society from the University of Pennsylvania.

About the Series

Now combined with our Saturday Speaker Series, Lunchtime Lectures take a rigorous and entertaining approach to exploring topics for scholars and anyone interested in stories about the history of science. The talks help expand perceptions of the nature of science and how it’s done. This season focuses on the human lives behind biological research.