Abstract

The shift to “living interpretation” in the second half of the 20th century redirected the trajectory of museum work. Living bodies were said to give a more real experience of the past than could historic objects. But what about those pigs, cows, chickens, and sheep found at every major living history museum? Nowadays museums seek rare breeds or they breed contemporary animals to bring them closer to descriptions found in historic documents. What are the ethical and political implications of “backbreeding”? Will museums determine that some backbreeding is legitimate, while others are the stuff of mad-scientist films?

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