Using as case studies the initiatives developed by two museum curators, the Belgian bibliographer Paul Otlet (1868–1944) and the Austrian social scientist Otto Neurath (1882–1945), and their subsequent collaboration with an extended network of scientists, philanthropists, artists, and social activists, this article provides a portrait of the general movement toward the creation of a new form of museum: the “museum of the future,” as Neurath labeled it. This museum would be able to enlighten the people by showing the nature of modern industrial civilization. The promoters of the “museum of the future” intended to reform museum practices by organizing exhibitions of social facts, but also by integrating several dimensions – architecture, commerce, entertainment, pedagogy, and science and technology – to create a holistic frame to address their audience. However, the effortlessly circulating museum Neurath and Otlet envisioned stood in sharp contrast to the many, often immaterial, boundaries they encountered in their attempt to implement their vision. Ever-growing nationalism, the professionalization of social science, and the increasing commercialization of scientific vulgarization are some of the factors that help explain their failure.
History of Science – SAGE
Published: Jun 1, 2018
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