, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 223–229 | Cite as

Microcosms: Objects of knowledge

  • Bruce Robertson
  • Mark MeadowEmail author


MICROCOSMS is an on-going project, that will find its outcome in a set of physical exhibitions extending into the Internet. Our goal is to enlarge the discursive space of museums, universities, disciplines and collections by pushing at their conceptual boundaries. At the centre of the project lie the multifarious things of the world that we collect and analyse in the contemporary university. The knowledge produced from objects is integral to the primary mission of the university, and is quite distinct from textual knowledge. But while we would like to believe that sharp boundaries define the functions of knowledgeobjects, they in fact exist in a series of continua of motives and uses: temporal, spatial, institutional. For example, universities and museums are not distinct entities, and neither are museums, laboratories or libraries. Objects reside in teaching or research collections; in departmental or personal assemblages of memorabilia; in the limbo of closets and cabinets, temporarily obsolete and disposable, but never disposed. They are the sources of knowledge production, the storehouses of that knowledge, and the means of its dissemination. There is one space where all these aspects of objects may once have existed under the same roof and that is the 16th-century Curiosity Cabinet; there is one realm where they may be virtually reunited, and that is the Internet. These two spaces are the beginning and end of the project.

Key Words

Curiosity cabinet Collecting Epistemology Internet Memory Memory theater Museology Museums Universities 


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  2. Meadow, M. (1992): “On the structure of knowledge in Bruegel's Netherlandish Proverbs,” Volkskundig Bulletin, 18(2), 34–52.Google Scholar
  3. Ong, W. (1982). Orality and Literacy: the Technologizing of the word, Methuen, London.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of History of Art and ArchitectureUniversity of CaliforniaSanta BarbaraUSA

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