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Science and Culture for Members Only

Science and Culture for Members Only: The Amsterdam Zoo Artis in the Nineteenth Century

Donna C. Mehos
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 212
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  • Book Info
    Science and Culture for Members Only
    Book Description:

    What role did science play in nineteenth-century Dutch cultural life? This fascinating slice-of-cultural-life book unveils the significance of Artis as both a scientific center and the cultural hub of the city. It links exhibits of exotic animals and colonial artifacts, concerts, scientific research, and social exclusion to the rise of national consciousness among nineteenth-century Dutch middle classes. The author highlights Dutch society and its efforts to display colonial wealth before it supported what is traditionally seen as high culture. Artis flourished with the help of significant private funding at a time when monumental institutions such as museums and concert halls had yet to appear on the Dutch cultural landscape. Artis was a private institution open to members only that held an unprecedented pride of place in Dutch society. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0381-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-6)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 7-8)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 9-10)
    Donna C. Mehos
  4. INTRODUCTION The Nation and Nature in Middle-Class Culture
    (pp. 11-20)

    With these words, the fictional Amsterdam coffee broker, Batavus Droogstoppel, positioned himself in decent Dutch society. Portrayed as the caricature of an unfeeling intolerant hypocrite, Droogstoppel represented one segment of Dutch middle-class society in Amsterdam. A trader of colonial wares who married into a respectable family, he also confirmed his identification with polite society by pointing out his membership in the private Zoological Society (Zoologisch Genootschap)Natura Artis Magistra– the Amsterdam zoo.

    Clearly, for the Dutch who readMax Havelaarwhen it appeared in 1860,Artismembership was a recognizable status symbol.Artisemerged as a significant cultural institution...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Structuring a New Generation’s Scientific Society
    (pp. 21-34)

    In May of 1888, three days of festivities took place to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Amsterdam’s zoological garden, the Koninklijk Zoologisch GenootschapNatura Artis Magistra(Royal Zoological SocietyNature is the Teacher of Art).¹ Flowers, flags, and banners decorated the neighborhood during the special events. Inside the zoological garden gates, B.J. Stokvis, physiologist and Professor of Medicine at the Municipal University of Amsterdam, extolled the accomplishments of the society in his keynote address. The new building for the society’s Ethnographic Museum opened on this occasion, and a select crowd visited the exhibits that had been augmented by the collections...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Private Science and the Public Interest
    (pp. 35-58)

    In the decades between the founding ofArtisin 1838 and the founding of the Municipal University of Amsterdam in 1877, conflict plagued relations betweenArtisand the city government.Artis’s attempts to expand and construct buildings were thwarted by city policies. Charged with protecting the public interest, the Amsterdam municipal government repeatedly defended its refusal to grant building permits, for example, with the argument that the expansion of theprivatezoological society could not take place at the expense of the public interest. Because the original zoological garden was situated in a non-residential area where the city had previously...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Internationalizing Nationalist Science
    (pp. 59-90)

    Without reaping any obvious benefits, the Amsterdam bourgeoisie financed the development of the professional scientific identity ofArtis. Its members, content with their access to the zoological garden and museum, also supported the scientific endeavors of their zoological society to build the institution that was to become “the most beautiful pearl in the crown of the city of Amsterdam.”² During the second decade ofArtis, the Board of Directors – with some prodding from Westerman – consciously expanded the serious scientific commitment of the zoo. The natural history activities ofArtishad to extend from displays aimed at amateurs, to...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Science Joins Cultural Life
    (pp. 91-124)

    This explicit poetic description ofArtisby a board member leaves little to the imagination. Science, art, animals, shipbuilding, navigation, and commerce join together at the zoological garden that honors, and is honored by, the patroness of Amsterdam (Illustration 8). The poem, in essence, pays tribute to the enterprising Dutch who shared their personal wealth when supporting the Amsterdam zoological institution.Artis, in turn, became a cultural center for the city, and a source of civic pride.

    The Dutch defined a new national cultural identity after years of French rule that ended in 1813 and the economic recovery that was...

  9. CONCLUSION Science, Colonial Expansion, and National Identity
    (pp. 125-130)

    The hundreds of burghers who attended G.F. Westerman’s funeral in 1890 mourned the loss of “the soul of the Society.”¹Artis, however, had already entered its decline although it was not a direct result of Westerman’s death. In their efforts to elevate the status of their nation and its capital, the Dutch burghers who financedArtis, and later the Concertgebouw and the Rijksmuseum, created new forms of cultural life that ultimately madeArtisseem outmoded. In the course of his long life, which spanned most of the nineteenth century, Westerman and his contemporaries were motivated by both the civic and...

  10. APPENDIX: Members of the Artis Board of Directors, 1838-1870
    (pp. 131-136)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 137-172)
  12. List of Illustrations and Color Plates
    (pp. 173-176)
  13. Bibliography Primary sources
    (pp. 177-200)
  14. Index
    (pp. 201-208)
  15. Color Plates
    (pp. 209-212)