Visualizing Natural History
This exhibit features images of Caribbean flora, fauna, and landscapes, and includes the history of the material they are sourced from. It makes an argument about what is considered natural history is (and why) and what natural history does. Drawing from five well-known European texts about Caribbean natural history: Richard Ligon’s A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbadoes (1657), James Grangier’s The Sugar-Cane. A Poem (1764), Peter Kalm’s Travels into North America (1773), Bryan Edwards’ The History, Civil and Commercial, of the British colonies in the West Indies (1793), and John Gabriel Stedman’s Narrative of a Five Years Expedition Against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam (1796) this exhibit's central thesis is that the authors of these texts came to the Caribbean with aims of enrichment and advancement using the images as 'proof' of its worth. The European view of the Caribbean is, as these images showed, often couched in very scientific terms, but embedded in commercial and imperialist aims.