Constructing citizenship by telling tales : Anna Curtis Chandler's storytelling practices during the United States' involvement in World War I (1917-1918)
This study investigates how an art educator employed as a storyteller at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met) in New York City during the United States’ active military involvement in World War I engaged with ethics and issues of national identity on the American home front. By 1917, nearly a decade after Story Hours were introduced to the Museum by Assistant Secretary Henry Watson Kent, skilled orator Anna Curtis Chandler had begun to reimagine and expand the Met’s storytelling program. Divided into three primary components, the Story Hours welcomed Museum members on Saturdays, the general public on Sundays, and children on select weekdays. Moreover, Chandler broadened her storytelling activities to include written narratives, launching her career as an author with the seminal storybook, Magic Pictures of the Long Ago: Stories of the People of Many Lands, in 1918.
An examination is made into the Met’s founding, early development, and educational endeavors leading up to and during the United States’ active military involvement in World War I. Additionally, an overview of Chandler’s background and impetus for creating stories rooted in empathetic engagement is presented. This study implements historical interpretation of archival data from the Metropolitan Museum of Art Archives and Wellesley College Archives, as well as a chapter from Chandler’s aforementioned storybook, Magic Pictures of the Long Ago, to unpack her educational agenda during this turbulent time period. Using substantiated and purposely grounded historical imagination, I argued that Chandler developed an alternative Americanization program that cemented audiences within the frame of democratic nationalism, supplied an imaginary escape from the War’s harsh realities, and invited audience members to (re)construct their identities as citizens.