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Legacies: Collecting America's History at the Smithsonian, by Steven Lubar and Kathleen M. Kendrick
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1913 Model T Ford
1913 Model T Ford

After twenty-two years Harvey Carlton Locke could hardly bear to part with his 1913 Model T Ford. "I wish to see her," he wrote the the Smithsonian, "in some museum where she will be looked after as I have done all these years." The Smithsonian needed a Model T to illustrate the development of the automobile and accepted his offer. With this sign on the back of the car, Locke drove it from his home in upstate New York to Washington, D.C., to deliver it to the Smithsonian.

A single artifact can tell many stories. Its context within an exhibition—displayed with an array of other artifacts, within a period setting, against a backdrop of images—helps bring those different stories to light. Since this 1913 Model T was donated in 1935 by Harvey Carlton Locke, the museum has displayed and interpreted the car in a variety of ways: as a technological milestone, as an icon of American history, and as a cultural artifact (see bottom for 1971 exhibit).

See also: Automobiles, Transportation

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