Survey Results: What does the term “economic marketplace” mean to you?


When we launched the American Enterprise website in February, the curatorial team hoped to use this space to share our research and solicit feedback on ideas. With a genuine sense of curiosity, we posted our first survey, asking the question: What does the term “economic marketplace” mean to you? We’ve had many answers that reveal some striking similarities and a few differences in how folks interpret this term:

As the Wordle image above illustrates, when asked about economic marketplaces, many of you thought of Wall Street. Stocks and the NYSE, were popular responses, and exchange is certainly at the heart of enterprise. But the term also brought to mind bigger concepts like capitalism, globalization, consumerism, and more human ones like dreams, risks, wealth and poverty, winners and losers. The curators were excited to see all of the terms we tossed around in meetings surfaced in the survey. And we take seriously the charge to portray the positive and not-so positive consequences of the marketplace. It’s clear that we’re on the same page with the majority of readers of this blog. We were particularly delighted to see responses that related to people and places, and to key concepts we’ve discussed at length, like innovation.

What will we do with what we learned? We will use the results of this survey to help build a lively exhibition that explores how the American marketplace writ large has changed over time and how it reveals the dynamic interactions among all sorts of producers, inventors, entrepreneurs, sellers, buyers, advocates and critics whose lives and activities defined American enterprise.

Marketplaces are now the organizing concept for the exhibition. This is a quickly evolving process, but let me give you a snapshot of where we are. The curators liked the idea of marketplaces as a way to describe the history of business in the United States as encompassing many people in a lot of different roles coming together to make, sell, and buy things. In our minds, marketplaces are not just the stock exchange, but also the seaport, the farmer’s market, the department store, the auto dealership, the shopping mall, and the internet, to name a few. The exhibition, which is beginning to take shape, has four marketplaces that capture American enterprise at certain points in time. These marketplaces will both immerse visitors in that time period and also let them explore concepts and objects that interest them.

If you’re wondering how the exhibition is changing, then stay tuned. We’ll be overhauling the Explore section of this website in the next few weeks to reflect the new organization and design of the exhibition. And, of course, we’d like your feedback.

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    About the Author


    Kathleen FranzKathleen Franz is Associate Professor and Director of Public History in the History Department at American University and curator for the American Enterprise exhibition. Learn more about the exhibition team.View all posts by Kathleen Franz