A Theme Exhibit is the curator's way of displaying objects that he considers worthy of highlighting. The objects may seem detached from each other, but they usually have a common theme.
The famous Swedish biologist Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778) has been a hero for me ever since childhood. I grew up just a few kilometers from his birthplace, and he was part of why I choose to study at Uppsala University; the very same university where Linnaeus did much of his groundbreaking research on biological taxonomy.
Linnaeus' life was remarkable. He had all the qualities that destined him for success, although his beginnings were humble. Reading about his life, time and achievements is like reading a modern tabloid; ambition and boldness mixed with loneliness and morbid tendencies in a blend where every virtue and vice is present.
In the Spotlight!
Much has been written about his scientific research, less is known about his role as a collector. Linnaeus was indeed a great collector with a network that spanned the globe. For obvious reasons, he collected natural history, but in the spirit of Enlightenment, he also had a keen interest in the cultural world. Linnaeus is perhaps most famous for his Systema Naturae, the sexual system of classification applied to plants.
Botany was Linnaeus' favorite subject he touched all areas in his ambition to catalog the world. Collecting was indeed favored by Linnaeus, so much that he even wrote a handbook about curating a natural history museum. This small pamphlet was written in Latin, the Lingua franca of the time, and was entitled Instructio Musei Rerum Naturalium.
Although Linnaeus collected many species, he also had much help from his so-called disciples. These disciples or apostles were usually students of Linnaeus who helped their master collecting species to be used as source material in classifying the natural world. This scientific network consisted of men who were in a sense as diligent as Linnaeus. One of the more famous apostles were Daniel Solander, who cataloged the natural history collections at the British Museum, and later accompanied Joseph Banks on James Cook's voyage on the Endeavor.