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Cabinets, Galleries and Museums

This course deals with the extremely varied history of collecting in Europe from about 1500 until today. This course presents an overview of all sorts of collections, not only of works of art, but also of natural curiosities and of items from the domain of the natural sciences. Among the recurring themes are the motives that drove sovereigns, governments and individuals to establish collections, and the function these collections which developed into cabinets, galleries and museums were intended to fulfil. Since theses functions can be inferred from the manner in which the collections are organised and exhibited, the history of presentation runs like a leitmotiv through the course.The first six chapters are dedicated to the period of encyclopaedic collecting, which is the type of collecting that encompassed a wide range of objects with the goal of representing the total knowledge of the world. Then, the development of four specialised institutions is dealt with: the natural history museum, the ethnographic museum, the museum of arts and crafts, and the museum of fine arts. The last part of the book focuses on the development of the art museum over the last three centuries.