Nature and texts in glass cases: The vitrine as a tool for textualizing nature

  • Brita Brenna


What can glass cases teach us about how nature is written or read? This article seeks to understand the work done by glass cases in Bergen Museum in Norway around 1900 specifically, and more generally how glass cases was an important tool for making natural history museums into textual media. In this article it is claimed that when we focus on how natural history museums manufacture culturally specific museum nature, it is a legacy of a reform movement that set out to “discipline” museum nature around 1900 in order to make nature legible for “everyman”. An important museum movement by the end of the nineteenth century worked to make natural museums into places were one could learn by reading, not by touching or engaging with the natural objects, qua objects. This insistence on making nature readable, it is claimed, should make us cautious about analysing natural history museums as texts. 


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