EVENT Jun 06
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Making Nature: The Labor of Natural History (Conference in June held at the American Philosophical Society)

Organization: American Philosophical Society
Event: Conference in June held at the American Philosophical Society
Categories: Colonial, 1865-1914, Anthropology/Sociology, Environmental Studies, Science
Event Date: 2024-06-06 to 2024-06-07 Abstract Due: 2024-02-15

Inspired by the APS Museum’s upcoming exhibition Sketching Splendor: Natural History in America, 1750-1850 the American Philosophical Society is organizing a two-day conference that will explore the ways humans have imagined, depicted, and constructed representations and knowledge about the natural world over time. The conference aims to bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars, scientists, naturalists, and collection professionals, as well as artists, filmmakers, climate activists, and others to consider the different forms of labor and expertise that have contributed to shaping past, present, and future understandings of nature as well as the place of humans within it. The conference will be held in-person at the Society in Philadelphia on June 6-7, 2024.

The program committee invites paper proposals from scholars in all fields as well as scientists, curators, artists, educators, collections stewards, and others whose work bears upon this theme. The committee especially welcomes proposals that situate natural history in a wide range of geographic and historical contexts.

Possible topics include but are not limited to:

  • The economic, social, and political implications of natural history collections and collecting practices over time.
  • The role of institutions, including botanical gardens, zoos, arboretums, libraries, museums, aquariums, and others, in shaping scientific and public understandings about the natural world.
  • The impact and contributions of local and Indigenous labor and expertise within natural history projects.
  • Critical studies addressing the relationship between natural history and empire.
    Studies of how nature and the natural world inform art, music, film, literature, and other creative pursuits in the past and present.
  • The role of images, visualizations, and other non-text based approaches in conveying ideas about nature and natural history.
  • Discussions about specific techniques and craft knowledge used in the preservation and display of natural history.
  • The needs and opportunities of digital tools and platforms for past, present, and future work in natural history.
  • The impact of climate change and extinction narratives on understandings and depictions of nature.
  • Papers exploring decolonial and antiracist approaches to natural history.


Applicants should submit a title and a 250-word proposal along with a C.V. by February 15, 2024 via Interfolio: https://apply.interfolio.com/137229

All presenters will receive travel subsidies and hotel accommodations. Presenters may also have the opportunity to publish revised papers in the APS’s Transactions, one of the longest running scholarly journals in America.

For more information contact Adrianna Link, Assistant Director of Library & Museum Programming, at alink@amphilsoc.org.



Thomas Johns