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Captivity: Assembling Nature’s Histories

May 17 @ 9:15 am - 5:30 pm
William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, 2520 Cimarron Street
Los Angeles, CA 90018 United States
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Conference organized by Anna Chen, Rebecca Fenning Marschall, and Bronwen Wilson, University of California, Los Angeles

The early modern period was a hothouse for the study of physical things in the natural world, and for the collection and assembly of them in human-made physical spaces. In other periods, botanical samples were preserved by diarists in their journals, such as the Clark Library’s Pressed specimens of butterflies and moths (1905), compiled by Yasushi Nawa (1857–1926). Nawa’s lepidochromic book showcases the technique of “printing butterflies,” or fixing the scales of their wings onto paper. Specimens of all sorts were admired for their variegated colors, curated in collections, and assembled into books.

Libraries were deeply implicated in these historical pursuits of the collection and classification of the contents of the natural world, as are modern libraries that now grapple with whether and how to preserve the nature that enters their collections. While libraries capture books about nature on their shelves, they also strive to seal the building against the environmental conditions of the outdoors that threaten damage to their holdings. What might we learn from these efforts to capture and to conserve nature, coupled with its potential to decompose or to invade environments?

Frederico Câmara, Independent Researcher
Ashley Cataldo, American Antiquarian Society
Tori Champion, University of St. Andrews
Cynthia Fang, University of California, Los Angeles
David Jones, Northwestern University
V.E. Mandrij, University of Konstanz / University of Amsterdam
Deirdre Madeleine Smith, University of Pittsburgh & Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Lindsay Wells, Independent Scholar
Andrew Weymouth, University of Idaho
Jennifer Martinez Wormser, Ella Strong Denison Library, Scripps College
Joy Zhu, University of California, Los Angeles

The conference is free to attend with advance registration and will be held in-person at the Clark Library and livestreamed on the Center’s YouTube Channel. No registration is required to watch the livestream.

In-person registration will close on Monday, May 13 at 5:00 p.m.
Seating is limited at the Clark Library.
Walk-in registrants are welcome as space permits.

For a complete schedule and to register, please visit the website.


Clark Library
UCLA Center for 17th- & 18th-Century Studies


William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
2520 Cimarron Street
Los Angeles, CA 90018 United States
+ Google Map
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