This course offers an introduction to the history of natural historical museums since the 18th century, addressing their diverse political, cultural and epistemic functions. It seeks to critically analyze not only how museums have transformed in relation to the administrative apparatus and scientific discourses, in which they are embedded, but how these collection institutions have also re-shaped the modern state and the natural sciences. Among the topics explored in this course is the relationship between imperialism, colonial infrastructures and the scientific investigation of the natural world as well as the role of museums in disciplining subjects of the state, cultivating consumption and propagating notions of national prestige and heritage. The course will further explore how key concepts in the natural sciences (e.g. scala naturae, evolution, biodiversity) have developed in conjunction with and been communicated to various audiences through natural historical collections.

Semester: WiTerm 2020/21