»THE IMAGINARIA AND REALIA OF MAKING KNOWLEDGE – THE POWER OF COLLECTIONS IN THE EARLY MODERN WORLD AND TODAY« (24.02.2020)
Collections, the practices of knowledge formation and the relationships between making and knowing have recently gained much attention in the history of science and in universities, museums and beyond. This process is influenced by a turn to the material and social contexts of science and knowledge as well as by the realisation that university and museum collections are particularly suitable to investigate these processes. At the same time, learning through reconstructing historical practices and materials (“making and knowing”) has become one of the most innovative methods in the history of science and knowledge today.
In a one-day workshop, sponsored by the University of Hamburg’s Zentralstelle für die wissenschaftlichen Sammlungen, Donna Bilak (New York), will present her research and artistic practice as a scholar and a maker. Donna Bilak is a historian of early modern alchemy who specializes in emblem studies, and before she became a historian worked as a jewellery designer and wax model-maker in Toronto's jewellery industry.
Over the past five years, these two professional pursuits have unexpectedly merged. Now, as a scholar and a maker, Donna explore ways that the mind is disciplined in guiding the hand in knowledgeable making, and how hands-on approaches to learning can open up the mind to new ways of understanding. For the workshop, Donna offers a work-in-progress presentation of her adaptation of hands-on practices to different cultural environments in questioning how intersections of text, images, material experimentation, and sensory engagement come together in the creation and application of knowledge – in the early modern period, and today.
Doing so relates to our view of humanism, then and now, as entrepreneurial at its heart, and rooted in dynamic interactions between textual and visual materials, physical artefacts, experimentation, and people. The talks also consider how early modern humanists used the faculty of imagination as an instrument of analysis and interpretation in learning how to know. We will also raise hard questions about access and barriers to knowledge, and who determines what we get to know.
The workshop will also include contributions by Kelly Whitmer (Sewanee/Göttingen) and Dominik Hünniger (Hamburg) who will share their research and scholarly practices regarding the history of collections and the pedagogy of objects and in the Early Modern period.
Please register until 13 February 2020: dominik.huenniger"AT"uni-hamburg.de
Venue: Universitätsmuseum, Universität Hamburg (main building), Edmund-Siemers-Allee 1, 1st floor, 20146 Hamburg
Monday, 24 February 2020
|10:00 am–01:00 pm||Donna Bilak: Materials, imagination, and making knowledge|
|02:30–03:30 pm||Kelly Whitmer: Realia and the utility of play in educational reform projects, c. 1650-1750|
|04:00–05:00 pm||Dominik Hünniger: “to guide the hand” - William Hunter's Collection and the making of medical and natural history knowledge in 18th century London|
Donna Bilak is a historian of early modern alchemy, with additional STS research interests in jewelry studies where she views the histories and techniques of jewelry making as an intellectual question and a humanitarian concern. Donna Bilak's publications and works in progress on seventeenth-century medico-alchemical culture examine laboratory technologies, materials and sensory experiences, as well as the production and trade of chemical medicine in the British Atlantic world. This research extends to the study of emblem culture in alchemical practice as a form of encrypting theoretical and practical information as allegorized text and images. Donna Bilak is currently in the final stages of work on a born-digital edition, co-authored with Tara Nummedal, titled Furnace and Fugue: A Digital Edition of Michael Maier's Atalanta fugiens (1618) with Scholarly Commentary. This project is a multi-disciplinary collaboration involving historians of science and of art, musicologists and performers, digital scholars, and rare books curators. It has been developed by Brown University’s Mellon-supported Digital Publications Initiative, and will be published by the University of Virginia Press in Fall 2020 as an open-access edition. Details about Donna Bilak's other projects are found at her website dbilakpraxis.
Dominik Hünniger is a cultural historian with special interest in 18th century environmental, medical and natural history as well as the history of universities and scholarship. He obtained a PhD from the University of Goettingen with a thesis on the cultural history of epizootics in Mid-18th century Northern Europe. The thesis used multi-disciplinary approaches to the past experiences of humans and other species. His research critically engages with Animal Studies and the development of the scientific as well as quotidian engagement of humans with the natural world in the past but also the present. Dominik Hünniger’s current research project is a material history of 18th century entomology. It analyzes the pan-European fascination with insects and their taxonomy and behaviour as well as the role of global specimens in these processes in order to illuminate the development of scientific disciplines, global exchange and the practices of (academic) knowledge formation. The insect collections of the Hunterian in Glasgow, the Natural History Museum in London, the Natural History Museum in Copenhagen, the Museum of Evolution in Uppsala and the Zoology Museum at the University of Kiel will be used for an analysis of their collections in this context. Collaboration with today’s curators is an important part of the project as historic zoological collections are invaluable sources for current taxonomic and biodiversity research in the life sciences.
Kelly Whitmer’s research focuses on the intersection of history of science with the history of youth culture, education and religion in the early modern world. She is particularly interested in the history of collecting and observational practices, visual and material culture and forms of social experimentation c. 1500 to 1800. Her first book, The Halle Orphanage as Scientific Community: Observation, Eclecticism and Pietism in the Early Enlightenment (University of Chicago Press, 2015) argues that the German city of Halle’s Orphanage was a key institutional venue for the pursuit of collaborative scientific research. It focuses on the uses of models and visual pedagogies as tools for assimilating perspectives and educating able observers. Kelly Whitmer is currently working on a new book about young prodigies as moral exemplars that is tentatively called Useful Knowledge, Youth and the Pedagogies of Innovation in the Early Modern World. It considers how instructional manuals, project sketches, object-based pedagogies, collecting strategies and accounts of young geniuses or prodigies were used by various professional groups to direct technology toward the future and the solving of pressing problems. She was recently awarded a Humboldt Fellowship, which will support further research and completion of this project at the University of Göttingen in 2020-21.