Museums have grown exponentially in China in the span of approximately 110 years. How does one design an exhibit for a better-informed public? What kind of interpretive space is needed to engage the public? How do museums function as sites of public history? This article traces the genealogy of museum development in China, and argues that the birth of the modern museum in China is a product of the radicalism of the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. Embedded in the subsequent one hundred years of development are a changing definition of “public,” a remodeled idea of “history,” and an evolving relationship between museums and their public. Within this context, the “Museums and the Public: Urban Landscape and Memory” project explores how the public interprets history and landscapes through exhibits, and if or how the exhibits reflect their memories. The analysis raises three possibilities for museums in China.

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