Historical Social Research

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Jakob Vogel: Stony Realms: Mineral Collections as Markers of Social, Cultural and Political Spaces in the 18th and Early 19th Century [Abstract]

As mineral collecting and classifying various rock types constituted an important cultural and scientific practice of enlightened societies in Europe in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, the paper analyses the sometimes extremely different spatial dimensions the mineral collections embodied, amongst which the exhibits mediated. It shows how the development of scientific mineralogy at the end of the eighteenth century not only accentuated universally-scientific claims and classifications, but was simultaneously associated with the utilitarian goals of economic development of the individual states and territories. In this context, mineral collections became an important tool of state knowledge through which mining officials as well as private collectors tried to exhibit their “patriotic” vision of economic development and deliver a public picture of the natural resources of their respective country. However, these scientific and political orders present in most contemporary collections did not destroy a classical vision which highlighted in the tradition of the older Wunderkammer the most spectacular and the valuable objects of the exhibitions.

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