Catalogues for an entropic collection: losses, gains and disciplinary exhaustion in the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow

Porter, D. (2019) Catalogues for an entropic collection: losses, gains and disciplinary exhaustion in the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow. BJHS Themes, 4, pp. 215-243. (doi: 10.1017/bjt.2019.15)

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Abstract

This essay takes the Hunterian Museum's collections, and particularly the large collection of anatomical preparations, as a case study to isolate the role of collections in disciplinary consolidation and change. I examine a large, unstudied paper archive of catalogues and inventories that strive to organize and account for objects, but more often reveal the collection's gradual transformation through continual losses and gains. This evidence indicates that while collections provide the material basis for object-based disciplines, the end of a collection does not necessarily support established or emergent disciplinary norms. As I show, it is in fact disorder in both the documentary archive and physical collections – and especially instabilities introduced by external circumstances that individuals can exploit but cannot control – that allows a collection to be mobilized, surreptitiously, for disciplinary ends.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Porter, Dr Dahlia
Authors: Porter, D.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Journal Name:BJHS Themes
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
ISSN:2058-850X
ISSN (Online):2056-354X
Published Online:17 September 2019
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 British Society for the History of Science
First Published:First published in BJHS Themes 4:215-243
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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