Wonders without Wounds: On Singularity, Museum and Organisation

Ruud Kaulingfreks*, Sverre Spoelstra, René Bos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This paper consists of two parts. The first provides a philosophical history of the concept of wonder, taking Heidegger's reading of the Greek verb thaumazein ('to wonder') as its point of departure. It shows how the Greek sense of wonder, understood as a dwelling in the everyday, has changed over time. Wonder becomes understood as curiosity and amazement, and gradually turns into something suspicious in the modern age. The second part illustrates how the modern loss of wonder that Heidegger speaks of can also be seen in the history of the Western museum, in particular its transition from Wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities, in the sixteenth and seventeenth century, to the birth of the modern museum at the end of the eighteenth centur y. The paper argues that the modern museum has developed a way of organising its objects that destroys their singularity, and that thereby the experience of wonder in the Greek sense of thaumazein is lost. The tentative conclusion suggests that the hostility to wonder as manifested in the modern museum can also be found in forms of modern organisation in general, and that it is embodied in organisational figures like the manager, the professional and the knowledge worker.

Original languageEnglish
JournalManagement and Organizational History
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)311-327
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Thaumazein
  • Wunderkammer
  • Singularity
  • Planning

Cite this