From seventeenth-century curiosity cabinets to A Night at the Museum, artifacts and specimens have offered their collectors, curators, and viewers access to multiple ways of understanding the natural world. In this environmental humanities seminar, we’ll explore the history of natural history, collecting, and display in a range of times and places, past and present. Using materials and approaches drawn from environmental history, science and technology studies, anthropology, and museum studies, we’ll grapple with key questions about American culture: What do we collect and why? What makes something a specimen? What are natural history collections for? How is scientific knowledge produced? What do our displays reveal about who we are? What is curation? We’ll consider dinosaur bones and taxidermy, field books and habitat dioramas, and objects from Davidson’s collections as we examine the ways exhibits tell stories and offer arguments—and craft our own.

ENV 340: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral Spring 2016 syllabus here.

Gastropods, Fiji Hotel Beach, Sigatoka, Fiji Islands. Collected VI-25-72 by T. Daggy. Photo by Amy Kohout, 6 Jan 2016.