Reforming the Natural History Museum, 1880–1900

in Modern Nature

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2009 | ISBN: 9780226610894
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226610924 | DOI:
Reforming the Natural History Museum, 1880–1900

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This chapter reports on changes in the social infrastructure of the natural history museum, stressing the significance of the professionalization of the curator and showing how curators used their newfound authority to infuse the museum with a broad range of “biological” exhibits. The museum reform movement that took off in the 1890s marked a fundamental structural shift in both natural history and the status of the biological perspective. The governmentalization and professionalization of curatorship in civic natural history museums had several important consequences for the development of the museum landscape. The chapter then addresses the shaping of nature and science in the museum. The museum reforms of the late nineteenth century embodied deep changes in both the social relations of natural history and the conceptions of nature developed within the museum setting. New representations of nature and science were just the most visible results of the reformed museum.

Keywords: natural history museum; social infrastructure; curator; museum reform movement; governmentalization; professionalization; curatorship; nature; science

Chapter.  20275 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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