"STUDY NATURE, NOT BOOKS": EDUCATION IN 19TH CENTURY NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUMS
Horvath, Ryan Maher
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This paper will examine three case studies, the Smithsonian Institution, the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard, and the American Museum of Natural History; these museums represent the national, university, and city/state museum models respectively. This paper will look to address the effect that these three museums models had on educational philosophies and practices in natural history museums from 1846-1900. These museums were all major natural history museums founded during a time of great expansion in the role of public education. Natural history was a new field of instruction during this period and museums were at the forefront of educational methods used to effectively teach this subject. A document analysis was performed on three different data sets for each museum: founding documents, annual reports, and personal papers and writings. Museums educated the public through three main avenues: systematic exhibits, performing normal school functions, and directly providing classroom instruction. The results of this study suggest that the national museum model was the least active educationally, the university museum model was the most active educationally, but focused primarily on their own students, and that the city/state museum model was responsive to public educational movements.
- Museology