1st Edition

Mannequins in Museums Power and Resistance on Display

Edited By Bridget R. Cooks, Jennifer J. Wagelie Copyright 2022
    144 Pages 20 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    144 Pages 20 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Mannequins in Museums is a collection of historical and contemporary case studies that examine how mannequins are presented in exhibitions and shows that, as objects used for storytelling, they are not neutral objects.

    Demonstrating that mannequins have long histories of being used to promote colonialism, consumerism, and racism, the book shows how these histories inform their use. It also engages readers in a conversation about how historical narratives are expressed in museums through mannequins as surrogate forms. Written by a select group of curators and art historians, the volume provides insight into a variety of museum contexts, including art, history, fashion, anthropology and wax. Drawing on exhibition case studies from North America, South Africa, and Europe, each chapter discusses the pedagogical and aesthetic stakes involved in representing racial difference and cultural history through mannequins. As a whole, the book will assist readers to understand the history of mannequins and their contemporary use as culturally relevant objects.

    Mannequins in Museums will be compelling reading for academics and students in the fields of museum studies, art history, public history, anthropology and visual and cultural studies. It should also be essential reading for museum professionals who are interested in rethinking mannequin display techniques.

    List of Figures

    List of Contributors



    Bridget R. Cooks and Jennifer J. Wagelie

    Chapter One: The Museum Mannequin as "Body Without Organs"

    Jessica Stephenson

    Chapter Two: From Life?: Histories and Contemporary Perspectives on Modeling Native American Humankind through Mannequins at the Smithsonian

    Gwyneira Issac

    Chapter Three: Likeness and Likeability: Human Remains, Facial Reconstructions, and Identity-Making in Museum Displays

    Minou Schraven

    Chapter Four: Fashion and Physique: Size, Shape, and Body Politics in the Display of Historical Dress

    Emma McClendon 

    Chapter Five: Asian Physiques of Mannequins in American Art Museums

    Kyunghee Pyun

    Chapter Six: Figures of Speech: Black History at The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum

    Bridget R. Cooks

    Chapter Seven: Black is the Color of My True Love's Skin: The Symbolism and Significance of the Black Female Mannequin Figure in Mary Sibande's Creative work

    Lanisa S. Kitchiner



    Bridget R. Cooks is Associate Professor in the Department of Art History and the Department of African American Studies at the University of California, Irvine, and Associate Director of the Institute and Museum of California Art. Her research focuses on African American artists, Black visual culture, and museum criticism. Cooks has worked as a museum educator and curator for several exhibitions. She is author of the book Exhibiting Blackness: African Americans and the American Art Museum (University of Massachusetts Press, 2011). Some of her other publications can be found in Afterall, Afterimage, American Studies, Aperture, and American Quarterly. She is currently completing her next book, Norman Rockwell: The Civil Rights Paintings.

    Jennifer J. Wagelie is the Academic Liaison at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at the University of California, Davis. She received her PhD in art history from the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Her area of study is the art of the Pacific Islands, specifically Māori art and material culture, with other research interests in the history of museums, collections and exhibitions. She has worked at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC and the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University and taught at UC Santa Cruz and CSU, Sacramento. She has also held postdoctoral fellowships in the anthropology departments of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.