From Nordisk Museologi 1994/2: SUMMARY pp. 21-30
From Kunstkammer to Museum
In 1759 the Natural Cabinet at Charlottenborg was established as an extension of the Royal Botanical Institute at Amalienborg founded in 1752. Both institutions were planned as places of research and teaching for the learned as well as for laymen. The disciplines studied and taught were botany, agriculture, forestry, gardening, zoology, mineralogy, mining and economy.
When establishing the collections necessary for the purpose, one of the professors at the Cabinet, Peder Ascanius, suggested parts of the collection of the natural chamber of the Royal Kunstkammer be transferred to the Cabinet, because one complete collection was preferrable to two incomplete ones. The custodian of the Kunstkammer, Gerhard Morell, protested against this, pointing to the fact that the Kunstkammer collection was a unit, no part of which could be removed without damaging the concept of the Kunstkammer.
This difference in view is based on the history of the concept of the Natural Cabinet and of the the Kunstkammer.
Both types of institution came into being during the Renaissance, the Natural Cabinet as a supplement to the library, as the then unknown organisms and natural products came from the new worlds in east and west and appeared not to be described by the classical authors. The Kunstkammer was designed as a microcosm representing the macrocosm just as the four faculties constituted universities in learned society. The botanical garden was seen as the outdoor part of the natural cabinet or Kunstkammer. The learned person, who had passed through the four faculties, had mastered all learning represented in the Kunstkammer. He also expected to be able to fulfill any official position in society. Access to the world of learning demanded an absolute command of Latin as this was the language in which all knowledge was made known in speech or writing.
In the last part of the 17th and the first part of the 18th century the unity of language, learning and Kunstkammer was destroyed. In France and Germany scientific information was conveyed in lectures and published in the mother tongue, and institutions of research and teaching unconnected with the universities were established. The developing centralized state demanded from civil servants administrative skills that were not taught in the universities and Ritterakademien were founded to meet this need. The pietistic scheme of carefully educating all members of society advanced the idea of teaching laymen the results of scientific research to make them useful to society.
The foundation of the Royal Botanical Institute and of the Natural Cabinet was a result of this development, and the desire to create a complete collection of specimens for educational purposes as advanced by Ascanius, a logical consequence of this. The refusal of the request by Morell was correctly based on the concept of the Kunstkammer as a unity reflecting a unit of the world and the knowledge about it, a unity, however, which by the 1760s had become a ghost of the past.
Peter Wagner, cand scient, botanik 1970; museumsinspektør ved Naturvidenskabelig Afdeling på Nationalmuseet 1970-72; fra 1972 ved Botanisk Centralbibliotek. Har publiceret om ved- og barkanatomi, botanikkens historie og lærdomshistorie.
Adr: Botanisk Centralbibliotek, Sølvgade 83 opgang 5, DK-1307 København K.
From Nordisk Museologi 1994/2: SUMMARY pp. 47-52
Physics and Museum: Hauch's physical Cabinet
Adam Wilhelm Hauch (1755-1838) was Lord Chamberlain to the Danish King Frederik VI. He acquired a large collection of physical and chemical instruments, a physical cabinet. Here he carried out experiments, subsequently taking part in discussions of the latest scientific discoveries.
Many such physical cabinets emerged during the Age of Enlightenment in Europe. Some, such as Hauch's, were used for serious research, others were for entertainment, others again were primarily status symbols.
Francis Bacon had been the leading proponent for making observations and measurement the basis for theorizing about the world. Societies or academies had been formed by scientists, for example the Royal Society in London, and these became hotbeds of new discoveries, and publishers of scientific papers. Knowledge was occasionally dispersed to the public by itinerant lecturers, who travelled with a load of demonstration apparatus, often made by themselves.
Physical cabinets may be said to cover the field between these two poles, and varied widely in size and scientific status. There were hundreds of them in Europe, and they became an important market for craftsmen making instrument. The trade became extensive, particularly in England, Holland and France.
Although these physical cabinets flourished during 17th and 18th centuries, instruments were of course, known both before and after this time; for example the important task of measuring celestial angles was the basis for astronomy and surveying. This paper attempts to present an historic perspective of the development of angle measuring instruments, including astrolabe, quadrant, octant, sextant, theodolites etc etc.
These instruments were all intended to measure, and were therefore called 'mathematical instruments'. Following Galileo and Newton, a new type of apparatus emerged: 'philosophical instruments'. These were intended to illustrate the behaviour of nature, often by exaggeration, e.g. the gravitational fall was examined by a slope, and the vacuum pump produced extreme low pressures.
The Danish language does not have a word covering the English 'scientific instrument'. A suggestion is made, and the definition of the word is discussed with reference to articles in English.
The collection of instruments in museums is discussed with reference to the three types suggested by J.A. Bennett. References are made to the newly opened George III collection at Science Museum, London and Boerhave Museum, Leiden. It is felt that the recent decades' predominant popularization is being taken over by attempts to show artifacts in their own right, putting weight on presentation rather than explanation.
The paper concludes with the regret that the future of the important Danish 'Hauch's Collection' is uncertain. It will probably be removed from its present location, as the owner wishes to use the premises for other purposes. No economic support has been allocated for restoration and maintenance. A suggestion two years ago to deposit the collection in the new History of Science Museum, Steno Museet, in Aarhus, has not been accepted. As part of our national heritage the Hauch Collection must be preserved as a unit.
Hemming Andersen er cand. polyt. 1949. Arbejde som ingeniør 1949-1964 i Danmark, Canada, England og Vesttyskland. Lektor ved Sorø Akademis Skole, matematik, fysik og kemi 1964-1992. Ansvarlig for opstillingen af Hauchs Samling i "Vænget" på Sorø Akademi 1976-1992. Projektarbejde: 'Historic Scientific Instruments in Denmark' 1990-1992.
Adr: Bymøllevej 1, 5960 Marstal
From Nordisk Museologi 1994/2: SUMMARY pp. 47-56
Niels P. Kristensen:
Natural history collections and research
Among the research activities linked to natural history collections, biological systematics stands out for the topicality conferred upon it by growing concern over the biodiversity crisis. Systematic biologists, most of whom work in natural history museums, are faced with the task of naming and describing/redescribing millions of undescribed or poorly described organisms from rapidly dwindling natural habitats, and of classifying the known organisms according to their phylogenetic affinities, so that all kinds of biological information on all kinds of organisms may be pieced together into coherent patterns. In view of the enormity of these tasks, systematists are now rightly demanding a greater share of the resources currently spent on biological research. But the question then naturally arises whether resources already available are being put to optimal use; it seems evident that this is not the case.
The major structural problem in the community of natural history museums is arguably that resources are too thinly spread: Too many museums do not have the staff and the equipment needed to cope efficiently with the research collections under their care. Another structural problem is that in some countries too many museum positions have been given to biologists lacking a background in systematics or other collection-based research.
The performance of museum-based systematic biology can be enhanced through ongoing and foreseeable shifts in a number of working procedures. In curation, high priority should be given to the sorting of unsorted accessions (to 'loanable entities') and to making databases outlining collection holdings available to the international community of systematists. As far as research is concerned, changing standards include: 1) Adoption of more strict priority criteria for selecting taxa for study. 2) Abandonment of the practice of working up the holdings of a single museum, or the material obtained from a single expedition, as well as the description of new taxa outside the context of comprehensive revisions. 3) More emphasis on research projects in which several scientists with different backgrounds/skills join forces. 4) Decisions taken at the managerial level, often involving museums from several countries, playing an increasingly important role in shaping future scientific activities centred on natural history collections.
Niels P. Kristensen er mag. scient. i entomologi og siden 1968 ansat ved Entomologisk Afdeling på Zoologisk Museum, Københavns Universitet; dr. scient. 1984; 1986-89 museets bestyrer og formand for Konsistoriums Permanente Museumsudvalg; docent 1990.
Adr: Zoologisk Museum, Universitetsparken 15, DK-2100 København Ø.
From Nordisk Museologi 1994/2: SUMMARY pp. 71-92
Museum pedagogics in the future
Behaviouristically inspired and empirically founded research into the relationship between visitors and exhibitions has frequently shown that it is possible to talk about typical visitor behaviour, where the visitors are to a large extend controlled by exhibition design.
In the discussions of museology theory these investigations are almost never taken seriously. The predominant pattern of research states that it is impossible to talk about a "typical" visitor. The museum experience is seen instead to result from subjective mental constructions. As a consequence of this approach one cannot talk about "good" or "bad" exhibitions without asking, "good" or "bad" for whom?
Simultaneously the museological debate today stresses quite a different field of research in which the more social aspects of the museum practice is emphasised, and where the "learning" aspect of museum visiting is seen as more or less irrelevant.
This paper argues that it is important not only to carry out research into the concrete relationships between museum and visitor regarding learning and experience, but also that it is important to investigate what constitute common traits in the museum experience. Although the individual visitor "constructs" his own world, there are limits to the subjectivity of such constructions. Common traits in the way different people meet an exhibition are on the one hand a result of the fact that the visitors share to a large extent a common cultural and historical background, which leads to a common "horizon of expectation", and on the other hand to the fact, that we are biological beings sharing common preferences for certain kinds of exhibition design.
Inge Meldgaard er forskningsstipendiat med emnet: "Museet som forskningsformidlende institution" - om forholdet mellem udstilling og publikum. Er uddannet etnograf og folkeskolelærer.
Adr: Afdeling for etnografi og socialantropologi, Moesgård, DK-8270 Højbjerg. Fax +45-86 27 07 08
From Nordisk Museologi 1994/2: SUMMARY pp. 93-100
The proper place. Some notes on museums, media and remembering
The author who is a journalist in one of the larger Swedish newspapers, has turned a critical eye on history and museums in Sweden and written many articles . This paper was presented during the "museum days" held in Umeå last April. It starts with a discussion of the journalist's role as a critical observer representing the public, when he writes or talks about museums. He refuses to accept the way media people nowadays commonly transform cultural activities into media events, robbing them of their peculiar nature and distinctive character. He prefers the role of the interested and involved layman and wants to define the specific character of the historical museum, its advantages as a cultural institution in comparison with e g historical novels and drama when communicating with the public.
He goes on to state that in places where history is alive or is trying to survive, there is no need for a museum and where there are museums, we cannot expect a living history. A corollary is that modernity is the mother of the museums. Will postmodernism bury them?
He then questions the hesitation on the part of contemporary museums to display their objects in profusion. The sparseness of objects on show, the scenographic framing in their presentation counteract the natural curiosity in the visitors. Only abundance can offer them a chance to discover for themselves patterns, regularities in the material. An important distinction is made between passive memory (prevalent) and active awareness (rare) as possible ways of dealing with the past when museums present their collections. The latter can only develop as the result of a constant active search for new knowledge in the objects. Research is an essential part of museum work and inseparable from its didactic function. As time passes, new and relevant questions must constantly be put regarding the objects. The author sees the lack of professional historians on the staff of Swedish museums as the main obstacle to a renewal. He is also critical of the idea that the goals of museums - or of research in humanities - should be useful in terms of economic growth or industrial competitiveness. On the contrary a reflection on cultural issues based on historical research and interdisciplinarity must be the concern of museums. And the best results can be achieved not by very big museums but by competing small and lively institutions.
The paper concludes with a critical appraisal of the current aesthetic ideals. Key words in museum didactics are identity and empathy that are favoured as in classical theatre. In adherence to these concepts museums construct pseudo realities of dubious value. Brecht's Verfremdungstheorie offers an alternative akin to critical research in history. Not empathy but emancipation is the central concept in Brecht's theory and it should also be practised in museums. The problem with postmodernism is that the relaxed anti-intellectual atmosphere makes the understanding of historical realities more difficult. Everything is sacrificed to the spectacular surface, to the emotional thrill. If this is so, it should be logical for museums to give up their state-supported public service function in favour of joining the entertainment industry.
Anders Björnsson ingår i Svenska Dagbladets redaktion och var åren 1982-93 producent vid Sveriges Radios vetenskapsredaktion.
Adr.: Svenska Dagbladet, S-105 17 Stockholm.
Tfn: +46-8 13 50 54. Fax: +46-8 13 51 40
From Nordisk Museologi 1994/2: SUMMARY pp. 101-108
Museums and success
In a world where economic values increasingly dominate museums have a hard job trying to find understanding for values other than the economic ones. The predominance of economic values in society is accompanied by their criteria of success: increased consumption, growing turn-over and more profit. It is difficult for the museums to point to other and more sophisticated criteria for success.
It is suggested that the motivations for establishing museums should be the basis of a new classification of museums rather than the traditional division in art museums, museums of cultural history and museums of natural history.
Qualitative values are the basis for the existence of museums, and is it not a much more difficult job to run an institution where you pursue qualitative goals? Even if those who run the museums are competent they lack the support that educational and research institutions give to those who will emerge to lead the traditional business world. The institutions provide these leaders with the tools of success and permanent professional training and refinement.
As the foundations and the objectives of museums are qualitative, they cannot only rely on the traditional training programs for business leaders. It is therefore recommended, that the museums invest in a program for "museological company analysis" - and the sooner the better. One of the main reasons for this is to establish a new interpretation of the motivations for creating museums and criteria of success more specific to museums as they do not regard increased consumption, better turn-over and more profit as their primary objectives.
Janne Laursen er mag. art. i europæisk etnologi. Har arbejdet med formidling og museologi. Seneste udstilling: "København under Jorden", Københavns Bymuseum, 1992. Har løst konsulentoppgaver og undervist på univetsitet og Museumshøjskolen i formidling, museologi samt kultur og turisme.
Adr. Olfert Fischersgade 53, 3.
DK-1311 København K, fax +45-33114405
From Nordisk Museologi 1994/2: Résumé pp. 121-131
Georges Henri Rivière
Georges Henri Rivière est une grande figure de la muséologie moderne. Son influence sur le développement des musées, en France aussi bien qu'à l'étranger, a été importante. L'article met l'accent sur le rôle essentiel joué par GHR dans le développement des musées d'ethnographie française, et tout particulièrement sur la situation durant les années 30. A cette époque, à la différence entre autres des pays nordiques, la France est marquée par un profond retard, concernant la place accordée à la culture populaire, dans le système de la recherche comme dans celui des musées. Les raisons de ce retard doivent être cherchées dans la signification accordée à la culture paysanne dans le contexte historique français. Elle n'a pas de statut comme patrimoine national, mais est au contraire stigmatisée et son existence représente un danger pour l'homogénéité de la nation. L'histoire du développement des musées d'ethnographie en France peut être considérée comme l'histoire d'un combat ayant pour objet le statut national de la culture populaire, et la légitimité de son étude, de sa préservation et de sa diffusion. GHR est l'un des grands champions de cette cause. Son action s'étend sur plus de 50 ans, et concerne la création du Musée National des Arts et Traditions Populaires à Paris, aussi bien que le développement des musées d'ethnographie en province, comme les musées régionaux de synthèse et les écomusées.
Marc Maure er mag. art i kunsthistorie, konservator ved Norsk Landbruksmuseum, aktiv utstillingsprodusent. Var på 1970-tallet bl.a. student ved GHR's museologikurs ved Paris Sorbonne Universitet.
Adr: Skarvaveien 95, N-1350 Lommedalen.
Fax +47-67 56 07 47