In 1992, at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore, the artist Fred Wilson mounted an exhibit that would become something of a legend. Wilson’s installation, the aptly titled Mining the Museum, was a radical departure from conventional exhibition standards at historical museums. Bringing nothing new into the museum, Wilson’s exhibit featured items from the society’s collection-old tea sets, paintings, furniture-the typical relics of a bygone era, but presented in an unprecedented way. Wilson repositioned select objects from the archives of the Maryland Historical Society to provoke difficult questions about the histories that these objects embody, and the purpose of the institutions that preserve them. Acting as curator, historian, and artist, Wilson sought to reveal untold stories embedded in these objects, by creating surprising juxtapositions, and playing with the placement of objects within the physical space of the gallery. A case labeled “Metalwork 1793-1880” contained highly polished Repousse-style silver table settings produced for the elite of Baltimore society surrounding a pair of grim iron slave shackles produced in the same period (Figure 1.1). In other parts of the exhibit Wilson positioned

Figure 1.1 Fred Wilson, “Metalwork 1793-1880,” Mining the Museum, 1992.