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

2019 BJHS Themes  
AbstractThis 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
more » ... aterial 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.
doi:10.1017/bjt.2019.15 fatcat:vg67gnkplneg7i7nke33pnhfje