Article ID: CBB822090169

Telling the Bionarrative: a Museum of Environmental Ideas (2018)


This paper explores the history of a proposal for an ideas-based museum of ecological concepts, a ‘National Biological Centre' for Canberra in 1965, and its successors.2 The background to the proposal came from changing ideas about zoos in the 1960s, and the emerging discipline of human ecology. The mission of the centre was to explore the relations between humans, other life-forms and their physical environment through what its chief protagonist, Stephen Boyden, called a comprehensive ‘bionarrative'.3 The centre was to facilitate the understanding of biophysical and social worlds as interrelated dynamic systems. The Biological Centre was conceived as a ‘major cultural institution' for the nation, reflecting relations between science and society, and informing culture with science.4 Unlike traditional natural history museums and zoos, collections of objects (or animals) were not its primary mission. This paper considers how the 1965 proposal for the Biological Centre anticipated later ‘museums of ideas', and reviews its relevance to new twenty-first-century museums of the Anthropocene, and how museums and related institutions can shed light on the role of science in society.

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Authors & Contributors
Evans, William
Schmid, Sonja D.
Mehos, Donna C.
Davidson, Martha
Wessely, Christina
Kohlstedt, Sally Gregory
Historical Records of Australian Science
Public Understanding of Science
Social Studies of Science
NTM: Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften, Technik und Medizin
Museum History Journal
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Geological Society of America
Amsterdam University Press
University of Chicago Press
University of California Press
University of Arizona
University of California, Los Angeles
Science and society
Natural history
Environmental sciences
Manley, Gordon
Oliphant, Mark
Time Periods
20th century, late
19th century
21st century
20th century
20th century, early
18th century
United States
Great Britain
Tokyo (Japan)
Soviet Union
Zoologischer Garten Berlin
Questacon, the National Science and Technology Centre (Australia)

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