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  1. What does "taking evident private delight" mean? Does it mean "To have a feeling of delight"?

  2. Does "treasure" refer to precious pieces displayed in science museums?

Context:

Viewers are free to make their own associations, just as they unwittingly do when they contemplate ‘genuine’ science collections, their eyes moving arbitrarily from one piece to the next involuntarily investing their own layers of meaning onto the official version and taking evident private delight from doing so, as they rediscover for themselves a childlike pleasure in finding, sorting and rearranging ‘treasure’.

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    "evident" and "private" are both just ordinary adjectives modifying "delight". Syntactically you could remove them, so the text says [viewers] taking delight from [doing something]. Personally I think the cited text is a bit cumbersome/verbose, and specifically I think it's far more common to take delight in something, not from it. And as TRomano points out, there's something "oxymoronic" about evident + private here. Jul 16, 2015 at 11:55
  • The metaphoric "treasure" refers to a viewer's "own layers of meaning" which he finds/invents for himself, and stores in the metaphoric "treasure-house" of his own mind, so he can subsequently re-access them (to gloat over, polish, rearrange and categorize, etc.). A metaphoric equivalent to The king was in his counting house, counting out his money. Jul 16, 2015 at 12:05

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It's something of an oxymoron. Private delight is the joy we feel but do not show outwardly, whereas evident delight is delight manifested, delight that others can see.

The author is detecting the private delight from its very slight visible signs, the movement of the onlooker's eyes across the collection, in some order. Each person may 'visit' the items in the collection in a different order.

The author finds meaning in the order in which a person peruses the items, taking that sequence as a reflection of the viewer's imposition of a personal order upon the items; such arranging and rearranging is assumed to be an innately pleasurable human activity.

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