Collecting and Recollecting: Creating a Museum Culture in Eighteenth-Century Germany

By Renata Schellenberg.

Published by The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In the eighteenth century special thought was given to the display of objects as material culture became increasingly perceived as a manifestation of knowledge, rather than as commodity alone.
The pre-Enlightenment popularity of the curio-cabinet was thus gradually replaced by a more principled ownership of objects, and by a desire to display them in an organized fashion, rather than as a hodge-podge of wondrous oddities. Strongly informed by scientific taxonomies and a culture of disciplined inquiry, collections in the eighteenth century took on an increasingly formal appearance while serving the dual role of preserving memory and conveying knowledge from the objects they contain. Efforts were made to popularize this redefintion of the material world and to write the significance of a museum culture. Journals, tracts and catalogues often served the purpose of promoting the epistemological value of the collected object, educating (and including) the general public on this important aspect of the collecting process. Theorizing the museum also became a popular intellectual endeavour, as tracts emerged that sought to define the exact role and purpose of the museum as a public institution. This paper investigates the emergence of such museological tracts in eighteenth-century Germany, highlighting the incongruity of the fact that these theories of the museum generally appear in isolation, i.e. without real relationship or access to the institution of a public museum.

Keywords: Collecting Culture, Collection Studies, Material Culture, Eighteenth-Century Germany, Display Theory

International Journal of the Inclusive Museum, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp.91-96. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 569.578KB).

Dr. Renata Schellenberg

Assistant Professor of German, Modern Languages Department, German Section, Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada

I am an Assistant Professor of German with a specialization in eighteenth-century literature and culture. In the past I have worked on the relationship between the Two Cultures (science and literature) and investigated the differences between scientific and literary texts. I am currently working on cultures of commodity in eighteenth-century Germany. I am also a great Goethe enthusiast.

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