Most nature museums–and this goes back to the curiosity cabinets of the Renaissance and early Enlightenment–do not really titillate the appetites, as in the case of consumer manipulation. The feeling of wonder, or the sensation of the marvelous, IS emotional and can intoxicate, but, unlike the appetites, it has no obvious object or specifiable goal. It takes one out of oneself in a different way than mere appetite satisfaction. It draws one on, but one cannot really envision its terminus. Enthusiasm (the word means ‘to be filled with the gods’) is an emotion that museums often engender, and it suggests that one momentarily loses oneself to something bigger – in a word, transcendence.

Stephen T. AsmaStuffed Animals & Pickled Heads (2001)

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