This book will trace the cultural history of natural history museums from their origins in the 18th century through to the present day, by tracing the changing attitudes and philosophies that influence the public displays of major natural history museums. The author will make his points with many anecdotes and stoies, showing the development over time from displays of individual collectors' curios and occasionally gruesome oddities, to the more politically sensitive and intellectually ambitious exercises in public education that constitute the modern day perminent exhibitions at museums. This book makes an entertaining and thoughtful contribution to recent comparative cultural and intellectual history, the history of public education, and the popularisation of science. The dichotomy between the front window, exhibit portion of natural history museums, and the backstage areas where scientific work goes forward, and the dual roles and missions served by this cultural institution, are well portrayed here.

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