More than a dose of AM stimulation, this morning program offers a rare glimpse behind a trifecta of cultural curtains: the first, the thrilling research and discovery practices involved in stewarding our archival treasures; the second, insights and the kind of un-Googleable anecdotes that only experts (and primary source institutions!) can provide; and finally, how the legacies of omnivorous collectors of the past continue to unite and inspire pivotal cultural conversations today.
Don’t miss this occasion to hear Dr. Alexandra Ortolja-Baird explore the provenance and history of Sir Hans Sloane’s 1707 A voyage to the islands of Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers and Jamaica.
Tickets are free and open to the public.
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About Sir Hans Sloane
Sloane, whose vast cabinet of curiosities would later become the foundation of The British Museum in 1753, began his omnivorous collecting habits in 1687 while working as a physician in Jamaica. Recounting this experience, his sumptuous Voyage to Jamaica blends together personal travel narrative, observations on the island’s flora and fauna, medical case notes, and ethnographic accounts of slave and planter culture.
Containing more than 200 life-sized engravings of Jamaican botany, it is no average book. But the Library Society holds no average copy. As this talk will reveal, the unique CLS copy lays bare the personal connections between Sloane and the Library Society, and the extensive networks of colonial natural history and botany that were the lifeblood of eighteenth-century libraries.
About Dr. Alexandra Ortolja-Baird
Dr. Ortolja-Baird specializes in the history of early modern collections and museums. Her research has largely focused on the library of Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753), whose collections became the foundation of The British Museum, the world’s first national museum. She is especially interested in the relationship between colonialism and collecting, and her research seeks to shed light on the silenced, erased, and forgotten individuals who were central to the collecting process. When she’s not grubbing around in archives, Alexandra is a Lecturer in Digital History and Culture at the University of Portsmouth, UK, a Senior Research Fellow on the AHRC Towards a National Collection project The Sloane Lab: Looking back to build future shared collections, and a Visiting Researcher at The British Museum.