Document Type



Master of Arts



First Adviser

Zepeda Cortes, Maria Barbara

Other advisers/committee members

Bulman, William; Pettegrew, John


This paper asserts that the Spanish Monarchy displayed curiosities from the New World as a way of asserting global supremacy. Curiosity collecting, the formation of private and public collections, and the creation of catalogs and descriptions of exotic wonders were important operative functions of the Empire from the discovery of the New World in the fifteenth century by the Habsburgs through the end of the eighteenth century under the Bourbons. An early modern fascination with collecting and display affected the ways the Spanish Empire presented itself in the context of the wider world into the eighteenth century. This study also suggests an alternate stream from which the Spanish Enlightenment would flow, suggesting that there was a trajectory between imperial ethnographic collecting in the sixteenth century and the collection and display of natural history specimens in the eighteenth. The Spanish Empire curated its global imperium through the reigns of two separate imperial dynasties, the Habsburgs and the Bourbons. Indeed, the Spanish Empire was significantly more than God, Gold, and Guns—it was an Empire of Curatorship and Display.

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