Wonder, Empire, Science: The Quagga and Other Extinctions on Display at Naturalis

Laura Bertens, Ann Marie Wilson


Naturalis, the Dutch national museum of natural history, celebrated its bicentennial in 2020 by launching the special exhibition, Nature’s Treasure Trove, featuring 25 ‘crown jewels’ from the collection – of which five are extinct. As a celebratory look back on the museum’s history of collecting, the exhibition navigates tensions between national culpability and national pride: culpability for colonialism and species loss, and pride in the Dutch tradition of scientific discovery. We argue that the exhibition can be seen as an exercise in repurposing a cultural memory that is essential to Dutch national identity, in a world that can no longer ignore the harm done by humans, including the Dutch.


extinction; natural history; quagga; cape lion; Naturalis; wonder

Full Text:


DOI: https://doi.org/10.29311/mas.v20i1.3795

Copyright (c) 2022 Laura Bertens

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
We use both functional and performance cookies to improve visitor experience. Continue browsing if you are happy to accept cookies. Please see our Privacy Policy for more information.

Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360

University Home