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Since the peak of the High Renaissance, classical erudition has been understood as a mastery of learned culture drawn from the written records and the rare objects collected in the cabinets of curiosities that were possessed by the European elite. However, as Cartesian philosophy was revolutionizing the scientific approach, Enlightenment collectors wavered between curiosity and rationality. Encyclopedic erudition gradually gave way to revolutionary universalism; the history of natural history museums, with their epistemological dogmatism, allows us to grasp the emergence of modern scholarship, which is distinguished by the “hyperspecialization” of knowledge. An analysis of the role played by museums at the turning point constituted by the end of classical erudition will reveal how museums are currently taking stock of their role and reinventing erudition within the public sphere and the knowledge economy; they are thereby confronting various contemporary forms of skepticism.

  • erudition
  • cabinet of curiosities
  • museum
  • history of museums
  • skepticism
  • epistemological anarchy
Vincent Lambert
Paul Rasse
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
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