Home

Collecting the Sea: 1500-2015
Tuesday 28th April, 6-9pm
Grant Museum, UCL, London WC1E 6DE

Throughout history, the ocean deep and its inhabitants have been a source of fascination and mystery to collectors, artists, writers, scientists and seafarers alike. From the early modern period, when cabinets of curiosities contained marvellous objects such as mermaids formed from the bodies of fish and monkeys or basilisks made of dried rays, right up to present day digital archives compiling data on marine species and habitats, collectors, natural philosophers, artists and scientists have amassed innumerable marine specimens for display and research.

A marine animal (coelenterate). Coloured etching. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

A marine animal (coelenterate). Coloured etching.
Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, collections of seashells, coral, fish and seaweed were used both for study and to adorn parlours and drawing rooms. Whether dried, preserved or kept alive in the domestic aquariums popular during the Victorian era, specimens from the sea fascinated with their otherworldly aspects and prehistoric forms, and they continue to do so. A plethora of artists, writers, practitioners and explorers have turned to the sea and its treasures for inspiration, study, or as the materials used in their work; Jules Verne, Herman Melville, Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, Jane and Mary Parminter, Jacques Cousteau and Mark Dion amongst many others.

Nine marine gastropod molluscs of the family Buccinidae (whelks). Coloured engraving. 1785. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Nine marine gastropod molluscs of the family Buccinidae (whelks). Coloured engraving. 1785. Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

The magnitude of the deep sea means that even today around 90% remains unexplored, and subsequently the unchartered murky depths of our oceans continue to inspire a sense of wonder at what might still lie undiscovered beneath the surface. This interdisciplinary event seeks to explore how objects, species and myths of oceanic and oceanographic origins have been collected, interpreted, displayed and utilised by collectors, artists, writers, scientists and museums, and to examine the ocean as a site of enchantment throughout this broad historical time period. We will additionally speculate on instances when our collecting of the sea becomes ecologically detrimental.

Attendance is free but you must book in order to attend. To reserve your place, please email Sarah Wade and Mary Addyman on sarah.wade.13@ucl.ac.uk or m.e.addyman@warwick.ac.uk.

Advertisements