Manufacturing Nostalgia: A Case Study of an Industrial Museum in New England

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Agnieszka Pasieka

Keywords

Postindustrial, Museum, Industrial Heritage, “American Dream”, Work Ethic, Immigrants, Nostalgia

Abstract

This paper discusses the functioning of an industrial museum located in New Britain, Connecticut. In the early twentieth century, New Britain was known as the Hardware Capital of the World. The curtailing and shutting down of factories, which began in the1970s, affected workers’ professional trajectories and social ties and also led to an ethnic reconfiguration of the urban realm. Conceived in the early 1990s, the New Britain Industrial Museum collects and exhibits photos and items that used or continue to beproduced in the city. Documenting the changing landscape of the industry and, through that, of the city itself, the museum emphasizes the city’s and its inhabitants’ potential. In doing so, it strives to serve as a bridge between the city’s past, present, and future. Attending to the employees’ and volunteers’ (ex-factory workers’) narratives and museum exhibits, this essay asks to what extent the museum facilitates the accommodation of postindustrial changes and to what extent it reinforces nostalgia for old times. How does it respond to the new challenges faced by the city? And how does it address new ethnic and class distinctions? In English.

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