Symposium: Negotiating Nature: Collectors, Donors, and Merchants in Nineteenth-Century Natural History Museums

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March 31, 2023 to April 1, 2023
Massachusetts, United States
Subject Fields: 
History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, Economic History / Studies, Business History / Studies, Anthropology, World History / Studies

Today, millions of zoological specimens acquired during the nineteenth-century collecting boom languish in natural history museums throughout the world. Many are in an advanced state of decay and represent extinct or at-risk specimens, with their value as measures of climate and habitat change atrophying. Decolonisation adds a further urgency to understanding their story. These specimens thus lack the provenance data to give them greater meaning and significance – where and by whom were they collected, traded, and transported – how did they end up in the museums’ collections? In the symposium an interdisciplinary team of scholars from history, science, anthropology, literary studies, and museum studies – describe their unified work in seeking to recover vital information and retell the stories and global trade of these specimens.

Venue: History department, Robinson Hall, Harvard University.

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Simon Ville

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