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About Archafological Site Museum

This volume represents an important contribution in theorizing a specific type of museum: that associated with an archaeological site. While this is a narrow reading of the contributions to this edited volume—the authors allow for a more expansive definition of "museum"—the overarching effect of the book is to successfully display the wide range of functions, procedures, and ideologies of site museums. While each contributor's narrow focus on his or her museum of choice may leave broader comparability in museum process and structure unexplored, the idiosyncratic nature of the individual chapters is more than balanced by two excellent discussion chapters at the end of the volume and by the innovative approaches and ideas presented by the authors.

The organizational structure of the chapters in the volume is distinctive. Rather than relying on the traditional approach in volumes on Latin silverman-archaeological_site.jpgAmerica, which divide the region geographically or historically, the editor instead chose to categorize chapters based on the type of site museum discussed in each contribution. The categories include: museums at monumental sites/sites with monuments; museums at non-monumental sites; the city as site museum; and the landscape as museum. There is a degree of content overlap among these categories. The overlap, however, works to strengthen the concept of "site museum" through repeated re-definition by individual contributors.

Within each of these categories, there are a series of case studies written by practitioners about the site museum project in which they have participated. For site museums at monumental sites, contributions include: Teotihuacan (Mexico), San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan (Mexico), Copan (Honduras), Kuntur Wasi (Peru), Pukara (Peru), Chiripa (Bolivia). For non-monumental sites, contributions include: Coastal Equador (Museum of the Lovers of Sumpa; a tourist guide training program) and Peru (San Jose de Moro). The city as site museum is discussed in detail for Cusco, Peru, and the landscape as museum is discussed for Ecuador (Agua Blanca) and Peru (Sican; Cotahuasi Valley). This collection of articles covers a broad expanse of Latin American countries: Mexico, Honduras, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. Impressively, the range of backgrounds of the authors includes national archaeologists as well as foreigners (Western and Non-Western).

The range of nations covered in the volume is limited to Latin America. The decision to discuss only site museums in Latin America, and to effectively foreground this fact via the title, is unexplored within any chapter of the volume. While individual authors explore in detail the definition, construction, and ramifications of site museums within specific local contexts, very few explore the relationship of the site museum concept to the Latin American context, specifically. That is, the narrow focus is on local (and national) issues at the expense of the international/regional. This is not necessarily a weakness, but begs the question: why use Latin America as an organizing concept at all?

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