Presentation by JCB Fellow Surekha Davies
Surekha Davies, Historian and writer, InterAmericas Fellow
"Collecting Artifacts in the Age of Empire: Spaces of Disruption, 1550-1725"
The early modern period is associated with oceanic exploration and with the rise of the eyewitness whose authority rested on travel to distant places. By contrast, object collections known as cabinets of curiosities, which juxtaposed ancient and recent artifacts and natural objects from around the globe, enabled viewers to claim instead the authority of flesh-witnessing things that did not, in the world beyond the cabinet, appear together in any single place. This talk investigates the epistemic consequences of northern Europe’s encounters with the natural and material worlds of the Americas. By examining the scholarly cabinets catalogued by John Tradescant the Younger (London), Nicholas Grew (who catalogued the Royal Society’s cabinet of ‘rarities’), and Ole Worm (Copenhagen), it illuminates responses to indigenous artifacts, the paths of indigenous knowledge into northern European natural history, and the fluidity of the concepts of natural and artificial in the seventeenth century.
The reading room will close to researchers at 3:30pm.