### New research project
### Title of dissertation
“Capital Nature. A History of French municipal museums of natural history. 1795-1870″.
The purpose of this study of three municipal museums of natural history in Nantes,Lyon and Toulouse, from ca. 1800 to 1870, is to offer a history of museums which values the situational configurations, whether social, spatial, and also environmental. Rooted in a social history of scientific practices, this enquiry reveals the plurality and the contextual plasticity of natural history museums.
The soaring of collecting activities in the nineteenth century and the accumulation of collection objects may have been enough to explain the changing figure of museums. But the many transfers of collections to news locales or to the owning hands of the municipality, as well as failed projects, cast light on museums which were constantly re-composed when not de-composing. The unstable nature of the nineteenth-century municipal museum of natural history certainly contrasts with representations of immutable science inscribed in neutralised places.
This is not the history of a proto-museum of natural history which eventually came into final form after 1870. Rather, the focus is set on a particular moment of their longer history which seeks to highlight their fluidity, unfinishedness and peculiarities in contrast with narratives of model institutions and perfection. Through this lens of the everyday, the dissertation shows how the history of the construction of the geographical and social spaces of the museums resulted from the gaining, maintaining, and fitting it into the space of the city. Far from being a container of objects and knowledge cut off from the society, practices of natural history at the museum and the construction of natural knowledge as capital also entailed field practice and interactions with manifold actors, naturalists and non. The museum, consequently, emerged as a place of knowledge which extended well beyond the museum building.
By decentring the gaze and considering the provincial space from there rather than with incomparable centres, the dissertation examines the modalities of the local construction of scientific authority and how it was manoeuvred through the scientific and administrative hierarchies. Observation of the keeping of natural knowledge and objects at municipal museums of natural history shows how local norms and frames of reference were produced which neighboured and made us of, rather than neglected, universal scales of scientific knowledge, and illuminates the changing contours of natural knowledge in relation to place.
See it on Cadmus: http://hdl.handle.net/1814/65304