Accepted Paper:

Architectures for and of wolves in Swiss natural history museums  


Elisa Frank (University of Zurich)

Paper short abstract:

The paper discusses natural history museums’ architectures for and of wolves which are created in the course of the return of these predators in Switzerland. These museum architectures reflect and also construct new shared spaces outside the museum walls.

Paper long abstract:

For about 20 years now wolves are back in Switzerland - and in the minds and lives of many Swiss people, leading to a variety of positions towards and practical ways of dealing with these newly arrived non-human beings. In the course of this return, new multispecies landscapes are emerging, e.g. on mountain pastures, where new persons (e.g. shepherd), new animals (e.g. livestock guardian dog) and new objects (e.g. electric fence) appear and come into being. The actor-network that the return of these predators generates is a complex and extensive one.

Instead of focusing on animal architecture in spaces where humans, wolves and other non-human beings actually live together, the proposed paper analyses a sector of this actor-network in which the wolf is not actually "present", but where his return is reflected in a highly material way: natural history museums. In these key settings of environmental education architectures for and of wolves are designed: (taxidermied) wolves can no longer be placed in the section "extinct species", but they need to be reintegrated in a new way - not least spatially and materially - in the stories a museum tells about nature. In doing so, the museum not only reflects the new entangled world(s) outside, but - as a site of knowledge production - it also suggests specific ways of living together outside the museum walls. The paper is based on fieldwork in Swiss natural history museums and interviews with curators, taxidermists and museum educators.

Panel Mat04
Shared spaces: perspectives on animal architecture