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Evolution on display: promoting Irish natural history and Darwinism at the Dublin Science and Art Museum

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 November 2005


JULIANA ADELMAN
Affiliation:
Department of History, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland. E-mail: Juliana.Adelman@nuigalway.ie.

Abstract

In 1890 the staff of the Dublin Natural History Museum began a comprehensive rearrangement of the collection in their care. Inspired by visits to American museums and motivated by a desire to produce a truly educational display, curators arranged the zoological collection to include cases on the history and geographical distribution of animals. These cases explicitly depicted, in words and specimens, the main arguments of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. Placed at a ground-floor entrance to the museum, the cases invited the visitor to examine the remainder of the collection in terms of evolution by natural selection. The exhibit was supplemented by guidebooks and several lecture-demonstrations, which served to further reinforce its messages. Through an analysis of the exhibit's development and contents, this paper will show how these cases reflected not only the status of evolutionary thinking in Ireland, but also the curators' goals for the future development of Irish natural history.


Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2005 British Society for the History of Science

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Footnotes

Thanks are due to Sam Alberti, Peter Bowler, Tim Collins, Michael Cronin, Martin Fanning, Sophie Forgan, Aileen Fyfe and the anonymous referees, all of whose comments greatly improved this paper. I especially thank Nigel Monaghan, Keeper of Natural History at the National Museum of Ireland, for access to the museum's archives and his enthusiasm for the project. The cost for the use of the illustrations was generously covered by a grant from the Arts Faculty at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

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