UBC Graduate Research

Museums and Cultural Meaning : Agriculture on America’s Front Lawn Somer, Alexandra


The United States’ National Mall is a landscape unlike any other. The expansive – seemingly endless – lawn, flanked by enormous museums, memorials, and galleries, is the end of a pilgrimage for American civil religion. The Mall is a cultural landscape that communicates to a diverse audience (domestic and international) the virtues and values of American society. Through classical and Christian imagery, the Mall reinforces American exceptionalism. American agrarianism, as informed by the frontier myth, has insulated farmers from positive adaptation, reinforcing instead the self-image of a hero victimized by circumstances. These myths of the yeoman farmer are inconsistent with today’s tech-savvy, agricultural industry. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the only office building on the Mall. Furthermore, the USDA has no public programming. This thesis proposes a science of agriculture museum – adjacent to the USDA’s building – that reframes agriculture as a S.T.E.M. profession. Moreover, this intervention responds critically to the scale, architectural styles, and materiality of the Mall by introducing humanscaled public spaces and greenhouses

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