Education, education, education: the space of the museum as showcase for thinking its public

Orr, Mary (2011) Education, education, education: the space of the museum as showcase for thinking its public In, Griffiths, Kate and Evans, David (eds.) Institutions and Power. Amsterdam, NL, Rodopi pp. 201-217.

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This essay proposes a first examination of the genre (as well as the rhetoric) of the museum guide as a means to gauge the extent, and also the success, of the popularization and public dissemination of nineteenth-century French science as displayed in the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle in the Jardin des Plantes. This institution was the model for France’s scientific educational policies both at home and abroad. The essay therefore examines its mission statement, particularly as regards education in science as set out in the constitution of the Jardin des Plantes, to elucidate the context for the guides under consideration, as well as their respective publics. Three discrete audiences form the case study – an educated Egyptian Moslem, a Parisian bourgeoise and a Rouennais visiting his local Muséum – to evaluate the success or otherwise of education in science as conveyed through a guide. Examination of who wrote and who read the guides under consideration then tells us much about a number of (educational) assumptions they make. What was the prior scientific knowledge of intended visitors? What ideological intent resides behind any selection of the natural history put on display? How does the very itinerary of the guide reveal orders of knowledge within the science? Last but not least, this essay foregrounds various kinds of ‘scientific’ rhetoric in the guides, to comment on how they also convey mixed messages about French scientific progress in the nineteenth-century.

Item Type: Book Section
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Keywords: museum guides, popularisation of science, jardin des plantes
ePrint ID: 80085
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Date Event
2011Accepted/In Press
Date Deposited: 24 Mar 2010
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2017 20:11
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