Constructing nature behind the glass

Samuel J.M.M. Alberti

Abstract


By way of introducing this special issue of Museum and Society, ‘Constructing nature behind glass’, this paper first surveys the literature devoted to analyses of natural history objects and collections. Such work is to be found in interesting places – not only in museum studies, history of science, and professional museum literature, but also in visual studies, anthropology and cultural geography. After exploiting this writing for different perspectives on the cultural and practical construction of museum nature, this paper moves on to consider one popular topic, taxidermy. The ambiguous nature of taxidermic mounts, or ‘remnant models’, leads to a discussion of the relative status of specimen and artefact. I identify four configurations of their relationship: museum nature as opposed to material culture; museum nature as material culture; museum nature and material culture sharing parallel processes; and finally, museum nature and material culture entangled. All offer perspectives on the construction of nature and culture behind glass.

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Copyright (c) 2015 Samuel J.M.M. Alberti

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Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360