The Lost Museum

The Lost Museum is an online historical game built between 2000-2005 through a collaboration between the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media at George Mason Univeristy and the American Social History Project at City University of New York. The game guides users through an immersive, 3-D re-creation of P.T. Barnum's American Museum. In 1865, Barnum's museum was burned down and the crime went unsolved. Players of The Lost Museum are asked to investigate potential arson suspects as they travel through four rooms in the museum and consult various sources in a historical database. By attempting to solve the mystery, players gain a better understanding of the social, poltiical, and cultural landscape of 19th century life.

The Lost Museum was part of a moment in the late-1990s and early-2000s when new media, particularly in the form of CD-ROMs and the World Wide Web, made possible new and creative forms of historical storytelling. This exhibit explores the imagining, funding, and building of The Lost Museum, and considers the role of historical gaming in the digital humanities today.

This project owes much to a compilation of publicity for and reflections about The Lost Museum that can be found on this page. The holes that couldn't be filled by those sources were filled by Josh Brown, executive producer of the project, who shared with me his time and insight into the development of The Lost Museum.

Play the game here, or continue to the first section of this exhibit, Imagining The Lost Museum.


Jessica Dauterive