1st Edition

The Museum of Babel Meditations on the Metahistorical Turn in Museography

By Mark Thurner Copyright 2025
    280 Pages 109 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The Museum of Babel: Meditations on the Metahistorical Turn in Museography is an enlightening, transatlantic reading of contemporary exhibits of the museum’s own past.  Thurner argues that the ghosts of the museum’s past evoked in these exhibits maps museography’s future.

    Museums everywhere now exhibit ‘evocations’ of their own pasts, often in the form of refashioned, ancestral cabinets of curiosities.  Thurner calls this the metahistorical turn in museography. Providing engaging and lively meditations on exhibits of the museal past in art, natural history, archaeology, and anthropology museums, including  the Prado, the Royal Cabinet of Natural History,  the British Museum, the Louvre, Coimbra’s Science Museum, Brazil’s torched Museu Nacional, Mexico’s Museum of Anthropology, Argentina’s Museo de la Plata, and the Venice Art Biennale, among others, Thurner argues that the metahistorical turn in museography is exposing the museum’s true vocation, which is to be a museum of itself, or metamuseum.

    In a word, The Museum of Babel is a meditation on the museum’s true vocation. As such, it will be an essential reading for museologists, museum professionals, historians of art and science, anthropologists, and students in an array of fields, including museum studies, cultural studies, global studies, history, archaeology, anthropology and art history.

    0 Antechamber; 1 Eden;2 Ark and Temple; 3 New Atlantis; 4 Old New World; 5 New Old World; 6 New Acropolis; 7 Babel


    Mark Thurner is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, History and Humanities at FLACSO Ecuador. He has held research and teaching positions at the University of London, the University of Florida, the University of Turin, the City College of New York, the Catholic University of Peru, the University of San Marcos, the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, and the Colegio de Mexico. His research has been further supported by the Social Science Research Council, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Fulbright-Hays Programme, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the Leverhulme Trust.