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Victoria Cain is an assistant professor of history at Northeastern University, where she studies visual culture and popular knowledge in the late nineteenth and twentieth-century United States. She has published articles on the history of museums, exhibition, and photography in Paedagogica Historica, the Journal of Visual Culture, Science in Context, American Quarterly and other peer reviewed journals. Her first book, Life on Display: Revolutionizing Museums of Science and Nature in the United States (University of Chicago Press, 2014), co-authored with Dr. Karen Rader, is a social and cultural history of exhibition in twentieth-century museums of science and nature. It explains how and why scientists, artists, educators and federal policy-makers used exhibition to transform public understandings of science–and ended up redefining American museums in the process.
Her current research project, tentatively titled “Worth a Thousand Words: Pictures, Technology and the Making of Modern American Education,” explores controversies surrounding the introduction of pictures and picturing technologies into American classrooms in the first half of the twentieth century. Drawing on a wide variety of archival, published and visual sources, Cain investigates widespread concerns about the impact that visual media would have upon children’s bodies, minds and morals, as well as the shifting boundaries between education, propaganda, and entertainment in the United States. She has published a small portion of this project in Learning with the Lights Off: Educational Film in the United States (Oxford University Press, 2011).
At Northeastern, she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses of public history, museums, and visual and material culture.