The roles, affordances and social agency of natural history museums are discussed in relation to the writings of Edward Forbes. These signal a motivation, in the mid-nineteenth-century, to naturalize the established social order through the systematic arrangement and display of natural history specimens. The perceived importance of the embodied messages of social order, as an antidote to radicalism and revolution, overrode concerns about temperance and abstinence and immediate fears for the physical safety of collections. The tensions between temperance, and the broader concerns about social order, were played out over the matter of the museums themselves being licensed premises.
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