2011-02-11Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.18452/8675
Museums between Enlightenment and Romanticism. Early nineteenth century roots and modern practices
Keurs, Pieter ter
The early history of the three large National Museums in Leiden, the Netherlands, is characterized by Enlightenment principles such as education, instruction and foremost rationalism. However, it would be a mistake to think that the history of these museums can be adequately described by referring to enlightened, rationalist ideas only. Partly as a reaction on enlightened rationalism the Romantic movement developed at the end of the eighteenth century. It is argued that the nineteenth century history of the three large national museums in Leiden can best be understood as a process influenced both by reason and structure as well as by irrationality and ‘the absence of structure’. It is most likely that modern museum practices are also influenced by the two strong European intellectual movements mentioned above. The case of the Golden Helmet, a Roman helmet found in 1910 in the swamp of the Peel region, serves as an example of how old museums can learn from their own past and apply these lessons to present-day museum practices. In collecting, exhibiting and cooperation with local partners, it is better to acknowledge a tension between reason and emotion, instead of a development towards more rationalism.
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