Journal Article

Exhibiting evolutionism

Arthur MacGregor

in Journal of the History of Collections

Volume 21, issue 1, pages 77-94
Published in print May 2009 | ISSN: 0954-6650
Published online February 2009 | e-ISSN: 1477-8564 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jhc/fhn034
Exhibiting evolutionism

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The implications of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, might have been expected to elicit immediate and far-reaching responses in the museum world, as curators struggled to accommodate its revolutionary doctrines. In fact several decades pass before any tangible reaction can be traced, by which time it was in the fields of archaeology and anthropology as much as in natural history that the impact was most evident. Even then, however, the evolutionary schemes that were at first acknowledged often bore more relation to pre-Darwinian theories than to the rigorous logic of natural selection, and it was only in the years approaching the half-century of Darwin's publication that his message began to be presented in unalloyed form. Darwin's own involvement in collecting, his influence in the practice of a variety of related disciplines and his eventual impact on museum displays are here explored.

Journal Article.  12506 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Exhibition Catalogues and Specific Collections ; History of Art ; Social and Cultural History

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