This is a vital new work; the first to take the University of Manchester’s Museum as its subject. By setting the museum in its cultural and intellectual contexts, Nature and culture explores twentieth-century collecting and display, and the status of the object in the modern world. Beginning with the origins of the Manchester Museum, accounting for its development as an internationally renowned university museum, and concluding at its major expansion at the turn of the millennium, this book casts new light on the history of museums. How did objects become knowledge? Who encountered museum objects on their way to museums? What happened to collections within the museum? How did visitors use and respond to objects? In answering these questions, Nature and culture illuminates not only the history of one institution, but also contributes to wider discussions in the history of science, cultural history and museology.
During the last half of the nineteenth century, many of the country’s most celebrated museums were built. In this original and daring study, Steven Conn argues that Americans, endowed with the belief that knowledge resided in objects themselves, built these institutions with the confidence that they could collect, organize, and display the sum of the world’s knowledge. Conn discovers how museums gave definition to different bodies of knowledge and how these various museums helped to shape America’s intellectual history.
This is the story of Sea World, a theme park where the wonders of nature are performed, marketed, and sold. With its trademark star, Shamu the killer whale—as well as performing dolphins, pettable sting rays, and reproductions of pristine natural worlds—the park represents a careful coordination of shows, dioramas, rides, and concessions built around the theme of ocean life. Susan Davis analyzes the Sea World experience and the forces that produce it: the theme park industry; Southern California tourism; the privatization of urban space; and the increasing integration of advertising, entertainment, and education. The result is an engaging exploration of the role played by images of nature and animals in contemporary commercial culture, and a precise account of how Sea World and its parent corporation, Anheuser-Busch, succeed. Davis argues that Sea World builds its vision of nature around customers’ worries and concerns about the environment, family relations, and education.
While Davis shows the many ways that Sea World monitors its audience and manipulates animals and landscapes to manufacture pleasure, she also explains the contradictions facing the enterprise in its campaign for a positive public identity. Shifting popular attitudes, animal rights activists, and environmental laws all pose practical and public relations challenges to the theme park. Davis confronts the park’s vast operations with impressive insight and originality, revealing Sea World as both an industrial product and a phenomenon typical of contemporary American culture. Spectacular Nature opens an intriguing field of inquiry: the role of commercial entertainment in shaping public understandings of the environment and environmental problems.
In 1500 few Europeans considered nature an object worthy of study, yet within fifty years the first museums of natural history had appeared, chiefly in Italy. Vast collections of natural curiosities – including living human dwarves, “toad-stones”, and unicorn horns – were gathered by Italian patricians as a means of knowing their world. The museums built around these collections became the center of a scientific culture that over the next century and a half served as a microcosm of Italian society and as the crossroads where the old and new sciences met. In Possessing Nature, Paula Findlen vividly recreates the lost world of late Renaissance and Baroque Italian museums and demonstrates its significance in the history of science and culture. Based on exhaustive research into natural histories, letters, travel journals, memoirs, and pleas for patronage, Findlen describes collections and collectors great and small, beginning with Ulisse Aldrovandi, professor of natural history at the University of Bologna. Aldrovandi, whose museum was known as the “eighth wonder” of the world, was a great popularizer of collecting among the upper classes. From the universities, Findlen traces the spread of natural history in the seventeenth century to other learned sectors of society: religious orders, scientific societies, and princely courts. There was, as Findlen shows, no separation between scientific culture and general political culture in Renaissance and Baroque Italy. The community of these early naturalists was, in many ways, a mirror of the humanist “republic of letters”. Archival documents point to the currying of patrons and the hierarchical nature of the scientific professions, characteristicscommon to the larger world around them. Examining anew the society and accomplishments of the first collectors of nature, Findlen argues that the accepted distinction between the “old” Aristotelian, text-based science and the “new” empirical science during the period is false. Rather, natural history as a discipline blurred the border between the ancients and the moderns, between collecting in order to recover ancient wisdom and collecting in order to develop new scholarship. In this way, as in others, the Scientific Revolution grew from the constant mediation between the old form of knowledge and the new. Possessing Nature is a unique cross-disciplinary study. Not only does its detailed description of the earliest natural history collections make an important contribution to museum studies and cultural history, but by placing these museums in a continuum of scientific inquiry, it also adds to our understanding of the history of science.
The family tree of science and technology museums traces the evolution of the science museum from private and civic collections to today’s science–technology centers, whose sole purpose is to inspire and educate the public. The boxes indicate only a small number of representative museums.
Friedman, A. J. (1997) ‘Are Science Centers and Theme Parks Merging?’, The Informal Science Review, 25 (1) 4–5.
Science museums, coming off a period of 50 years of explosive growth, have been undergoing evolutionary development for over 200 years. Examples of three distinct generations thrive today, though hybrids are also common. The Science Museum in London is about half interactives; the Lawrence Hall of Science is known at least as much for its curriculum development as for its exhibitions; and the Exploratorium has built a large presence on the World Wide Web and in cities around the world. The evolution is continuing, but where is it going? Are science museums merging into one species, at last? Or are they diverging into many more categories, including virtual institutions with no physical collections at all?
Haraway’s discussions of how scientists have perceived the sexual nature of female primates opens a new chapter in feminist theory, raising unsettling questions about models of the family and of heterosexuality in primate research.
The Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory is a scientific institution of the first importance. It was the forerunner of the modern multipurpose national research laboratory, the direct parent of Livermore and Los Alamos, an essential contributor to the wartime work of Oak Ridge and Hanford, the inspiration for the founders of Brookhaven. Its achievements have long been recognized through awards of Nobel prizes, memberships in the National Academy of Sciences, and other high scientific honors. The hundreds of accelerator laboratories throughout the world give ample testimony to the Laboratory’s contribution to modern big science. Many of the leaders of these institutions began their careers at the Laboratory, and most make or made use of its technology.
As with most novel technologies, the art of accelerator building had to be learned via apprenticeship. Berkeley was the center of the art. Former apprentices trained there opened up new technologies that fed back for further development. The modern linear accelerator, electron and proton synchrotrons, heavy-ion accelerators, bubble chambers, and computers to analyze accelerator-produced data all owe their inspiration or success to the work of the Radiation Laboratory. The achievement of these technologies alone would be enough to lend the Laboratory great historical interest.
The motives and mechanisms that shaped the growth of the Laboratory helped to force deep changes in the scientific estate and in the wider society. In the entrepreneurship of its founder, Ernest Orlando Lawrence, these motives, mechanisms, and changes came together in a tight focus. He mobilized great and
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We humans share Earth with 1.4 million known species and millions more species that are still unrecorded. Yet we know surprisingly little about the practical work that produced the vast inventory we have to date of our fellow creatures. How were these multitudinous creatures collected, recorded, and named? When, and by whom?
Here a distinguished historian of science tells the story of the modern discovery of biodiversity. Robert Kohler argues that the work begun by Linnaeus culminated around 1900, when collecting and inventory were organized on a grand scale in natural history surveys. Supported by governments, museums, and universities, biologists launched hundreds of collecting expeditions to every corner of the world. Kohler conveys to readers the experience and feel of expeditionary travel: the customs and rhythms of collectors’ daily work, and its special pleasures and pains.
A novel twist in this story is that survey collecting was rooted not just in science but also in new customs of outdoor recreation, such as hiking, camping, and sport hunting. These popular pursuits engendered a wide scientific interest in animals and plants and inspired wealthy nature-goers to pay for expeditions. The modern discovery of biodiversity became a reality when scientists’ desire to know intersected with the culture of outdoor vacationing. General readers as well as scholars will find this book fascinating.
What is it like to do field biology in a world that exalts experiments and laboratories? How have field biologists assimilated laboratory values and practices and crafted an exact, quantitative science without losing their naturalist souls? In “Landscapes and Labscapes”, Robert E. Kohler explores the people, places and practices of field biology in the United States from the 1890s to the 1950s. He takes readers into the fields and forests where field biologists learned to count and measure nature and to read the imperfect records of “nature’s experiments”. He shows how field researchers use nature’s particularities to develop “practices of place” that achieve in nature what laboratory researchers can only do with simplified experiments. Using historical frontiers as models, Kohler shows how biologists created vigorous new border sciences of ecology and evolutionary biology.
Late nineteenth-century public museums in the United States were intentionally built to be modern, guided by administrators like George Brown Goode toward scientific goals that included preservation, research, and education. Self-consciously preoccupied with the management of museums, intent on attaining mastery over the objects that constituted their museums, and persuaded that meaning derived not just from the objects themselves but from their explanation and configuration by experts, museum masters led a “new museum” movement. A century later, the critiques of postmodern scholars attest to the museum directors’ effective establishment of a modern profile. Historians of science, who once could take these institutions for granted as a lightly marked center of authority, now may use methods of social and cultural studies to open their institutional and intellectual frames. While cautious about theory-driven arguments, such scholars benefit from the issues raised by cultural critics even as they rely on their own documentary methods to ensure that science is an integral component when examining ideas, language, and practice in context. © 2005 by The History of Science Society. All rights reserved.
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In this book, the authors bring museums and science together not just to explore the politics and cultural operations of each, but also to highlight the discursive interrelationships between the two. Museums which deal with science are not simply putting science on display; they are also creating particular kinds of science for the public, and are lending to the science that is displayed their own legitimizing imprimatur. In other words, one effect science museum is to pronounce certain practices and artifacts as belonging to the proper realm of ‘science’, and as being science that an educated public ought to know about.
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