University of Cambridge > > Cabinet of Natural History > Inventorying the Rhone: the scientific travels of Claude Jourdan collecting for the Natural History Museum of Lyon, 1834–1869

Inventorying the Rhone: the scientific travels of Claude Jourdan collecting for the Natural History Museum of Lyon, 1834–1869

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Serving as the director of the Natural History Museum of Lyon from 1834 to 1869, Claude Jourdan managed the museum’s collections for nearly a lifetime with determination of his own. The museum’s archive and his Journal d’Entrées are particularly representative of the importance of travel in Jourdan’s collecting practices, especially of his efforts to assemble a comprehensive collection of minerals and fossils documenting the geology of the Rhone river basin. The respective specimens shed light on locational patterns, as well as pointing to the social dimension of Jourdan’s mobility. The web of intermediaries and contacts patiently weaved together over decades provides insights into the collecting strategies developed by Jourdan, but also into the construction of his own persona within the scholarly world.

As an employee of a municipal museum, Jourdan also operated as a servant of the public establishment. Therefore, in addition to gathering specimens for the museum, Jourdan was charged with defining professional competences in the context of a public institution, as well as with negotiations with funding bodies, which were simultaneously local political authorities. Through looking at the prevailing and the peculiar in Jourdan’s collecting practices, this paper will emphasise situational and contextual aspects of scientific knowledge production in Lyon. In particular, I seek to expose the construction modalities of the museum authority as a site of scientific knowledge and interrogate the extent to which this was tied to the invention of the director’s own authority and persona.

This talk is part of the Cabinet of Natural History series.

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