A considered critical response to the Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums issued by the Bizot Group of Museum directors in 2002. The text offers a critique of the concept of the Universal Museum by tracing its historical roots in the Cabinets of Curiosity assembled by European princes from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries. The early 'universal' cabinet collections ultimately formed the foundations of the great western 'encyclopedic' museums which in turn benefited from the era of colonialism and imperial adventure in the nineteenth century. The book argues that the concept of a 'universal museum' is philosophically and practically flawed, an anachronistic aspiration that is the product of an idealistic, eighteenth-century Enlightenment mindset devoted to the accumulation and classification of all species of flora and fauna, natural and man-made objects. Such collections are not only unsustainable but perpetuate many of the worst aspects of the age... More > of imperialism.< Less
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