chapter  2
13 Pages

Romancing the stones: earth science objects as material culture

Before I continue, it is useful to clarify briefly the meanings of a number of terms that appear throughout this chapter. In focusing on university collections

in particular, it has become increasingly apparent that there are inconsistencies in the terminology used by universities with reference to academic disciplines, and that which museums use to describe the subject matter of collections. Indeed, this problem reflects the fundamentally complex and interconnected histories of the natural sciences and the changing relationships between disciplines such as natural history and geology, throughout their development and evolution.3 These are messy terms and it is not appropriate to dwell on this matter here; however, in order to avoid confusion, I will briefly define three key terms that I have adopted. Throughout this chapter, I use ‘natural science’ as an umbrella term for those scientific disciplines and collections concerned with nature; both biological and physical. Within the natural sciences, I use the term ‘earth sciences’ (which, in academia, has replaced the more traditional term ‘geology’) to refer to collections of rocks, minerals and fossils as well as their corresponding disciplines of petrol­ ogy, mineralogy and palaeontology, and ‘natural history’ to describe collections of both zoological and botanical objects and the corresponding academic bio­ logical sciences.4