From Private to Public: Natural Collections and Museums

From Private to Public: Natural Collections and Museums

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Beretta, Marco, ed., 2005. 272pp., illus., clothbound and jacketed

“ . . . focuses on one of the signal developments in natural history: the growth and transformation of collecting practices and museums from antiquity through the nineteenth century. The twelve essays in this volume offer a rich and diverse spectrum of examples culled from virtually every region in Europe. The result is a very useful snapshot of the role of collecting in natural history and allied fields such as anatomy and chemistry, not to mention emerging specialties such as geology.” —Early Science and Medicine

. . . a particularly interesting volume in that it bridges a number of different approaches to the study of the history of natural history . . . raises many important issues pertaining to ownership, the use of collections (beyond the purposes of classification or social standing), the definition of 'collection,' and the private/public continuum of collections . . . the volume shows how much more we can expand our overall narratives and how rich the subject is . . . ” —Isis, 2007, 98:1

. . . In his excellent preface, Beretta discusses the idea that the emergence of natural history as an independent discipline ‘was closely connected to the possession and domination of nature, rather than its contemplation.' Thus it was the passion for collecting natural-history artifacts from the Renaissance to the end of the eighteenth century that drove the establishment of the discipline . . . From a natural historian’s viewpoint, these papers are far removed from the more familiar accounts of how collections, collectors and specimens contributed to our knowledge of the natural world, as they also address the largely unexplored subject of how the collections affected their collectors . . . well produced with many relevant illustrations.” —Nature

“Seeking to balance Natural History’s traditional emphasis on specimens and collections over writings, From Private to Public sheds a judicious and scholarly light upon humankind’s quest to better understand the surrounding world. An excellent contribution to community and academic library Natural History study shelves.” —The Midwest Book Review