History of the natural history museum; origin, character, and evolution; anecdotes and personalities; how natural history museums influenced society and their continuing relevance to a technological world.
This course will examine the roots of Natural History Museums, from the Museon of the Great Library of Alexandria, the 16th Century “Cabinets of Curiosities”, through the development of systematics and the great Age of Exploration, and through the proliferation of American museums brought about by the age of the great expositions and world’s fairs. At each stage of the story, we will examine how natural history museums influenced and were affected by the larger movements of society. Finally, the Natural History Museum will be scrutinized for its contemporary relevance to an increasingly technological, urbanized and specialized world. Does the average museum visitor seek to be one with his curiosity through experiencing objects, specimens and artifacts? Will a technologically driven society eschew the “real” for the digitally translated? In addition to the use of a large recent bibliography, we will study the history of the UI Museum of Natural History as a sample-case of the evolution of museums. Students in this lecture course will be required to attend lectures, report on and discuss readings, provide review and analysis of historic and contemporary institutions, and to provide the instructor with competent original work on some aspect or personality in the Natural History Museum field. Discussions will frequently be held within the galleries of the museum, where the environment of the surrounding displays will be illustrative of course themes. Guest lecturers will be invited to contribute their perspectives to the discussions. A midterm and final exam, along with graded assignments and reports, will provide evaluation of students.
at least one course in museum studies, such as 024:102 (MUSM:3001).
- readings will be posted on ICON
(i.e. Also offered as):
(i.e. Separate sections meeting in the same room):
The Natural History Museum: A History
Instructors: William Thomson (Primary Instructor)
12 of 30 enrolled