Conference article

The Cabinet of Naturalia of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences at the End of the 18th Century

Inga Elmqvist Söderlund
Stockholms universitet/Observatoriemuseet, Sweden

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Published in: Comparing: National Museums; Territories; Nation-Building and Change. NaMu IV; Linköping University; Norrköping; Sweden 18-20 February 2008

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 30:15, p. 197-204

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Published: 2008-05-20


ISSN: 1650-3686 (print), 1650-3740 (online)


The theme of this conference is to compare and take an explicit historical outlook. In this paper I would like use the cabinet of naturalia of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences during the latter half of the 18th century as a case study. It outlines the prehistory of two national museums: the Swedish museum of natural history and the Museum of Ethnography. I will put the cabinet in a European context and describe it as something in between the older curiosity cabinet; but moving towards the more specialized collections of museums of later date. I will also argue that the combination of an astronomical observatory and cabinet of naturalia was made on purpose; and corresponded to the contemporary understanding of what a building of learning and an academy ought to contain.

The paper will also discuss contents; the accessibility of the cabinet as well as the display and order of the objects; and how and why objects were acquired. During past years; an attempt to retrieve the original objects has been made. Some of the original objects are to be found at various Swedish museums. Their way from one meaningful context to another shows the changing values of scientists and curators


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