25 Pages

Natural science collections

WithBruce A. Campbell

This chapter introduces many of the methods used to preserve natural history specimens because an awareness of preservation processes is useful in understanding the range of materials to be taken into consideration when assessing conservation needs. The museum collections that represent the natural world come under the very broad headings of botany, geology and zoology. The word ‘Nature’ has a complex semiotic beyond landscape and biodiversity: quality, character, unsullied by humans. The Enlightenment in Europe created a paradigm shift and encouraged the move away from Nature as emblematic, mystical or allegorical, to new ways of Baconian empirical observation and examination. Geology is the science of the solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which they change over time. The classification and naming of living organisms had already preoccupied natural philosophers for hundreds of years before a workable scheme arose.