Full title:

Ruud, L.C., 'Six Monstrous Pigs: Animal Monsters and Museum Practices in the Eighteenth-Century El Real Gabinete de Historia Natural', in Thorsen, L.E., Rader, K.A. and Dodd, A. (eds.), Animals on Display: the Creaturely in Museums, Zoos, and Natural History (Pennsylvania University Press, 2013), pp. 15-36.



Ruud draws on Daston and Park's Wonders and the Orders of Nature in its consideration of six specimens of 'monstrous pigs' that were collected at El Real Gabinete de Historia Natural in Madrid during the late eighteenth century. She places particular emphasis on the cultural significance of the pigs, emphasising that they 'were not primarily interesting monsters to be investigated in a scientific manner, or displayed to visitors at the museum', but rather 'valued gifts to the king and contributions to the Enlightenment knowledge distributed in his empire, and [that] they were particularly important due to their capacity to represent both the donor's important contributions to and participation in the museum, as well as the museum's position within the royal sphere.' (20) Ruud suggests that this cultural aspect of the pigs' significance redressess Daston and Park's neglect of 'a broad range of metaphorical and political uses of monsters' (16) at this time.

Ultimately, she concludes that 'the archival documents reveal that the pig monsters were represented in many different ways and that they were incorporated into a multitude of museum practices. All the pig monstres were flexible objects that could be shaped by describing them according to different textual practices, practices that transformed the monsters into something that they would not have been without that specific document...

The archival remnants of the pigs... can also reveal something about how representations and understandings of monsters changed toward the end of the eighteenth century at the Royal Cabinet in Madrid - of how animal monsters gradually became objects of a specialized subdiscipline within medicine, and lost significance as objects for display and study in the cabinet... The study of pig monsters in the Madrid collection adds to the picture of the eighteenth century as a period of rationalization, domestication, and normalization of the monstrous.' (30-31)