Collections and Collecting

Bringing together curators, archivists, library professionals, and scholars representing fields across the sciences and the humanities, this working group takes an interdisciplinary approach to considering the history of collections, as well as associated debates surrounding the value and purpose of collecting. This group will grapple with the past and present role of collections, and consider questions such as the following: What kinds of objects, specimens, and artifacts are considered worth collecting and by whom? How can institutions continue to maintain and care for their collections? What kinds of information and/or data are stored within collections? How can new approaches to research, teaching, and public programs allow for objects to reach new audiences and/or provide new opportunities for reinterpretation?

Please set your timezone at

Consortium Respectful Behavior Policy

Participants at Consortium activities will treat each other with respect and consideration to create a collegial, inclusive, and professional environment that is free from any form of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

Participants will avoid any inappropriate actions or statements based on individual characteristics such as age, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, nationality, political affiliation, ability status, educational background, or any other characteristic protected by law. Disruptive or harassing behavior of any kind will not be tolerated. Harassment includes but is not limited to inappropriate or intimidating behavior and language, unwelcome jokes or comments, unwanted touching or attention, offensive images, photography without permission, and stalking.

Participants may send reports or concerns about violations of this policy to

Upcoming Meetings

There are no currently scheduled upcoming events.

Past Meetings

  • May 5, 2023

    Pedro Raposo (Martha Hamilton and I. Wistar Morris III Executive Director, Library and Archives, The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University) and Paul Callomon (Collections Manager, Malacology, The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University), "People, Nature, and the Social Extension of Specimens"

  • April 7, 2023

    Marta Lourenço (Museum of Science and Natural History of the University of Lisbon), "Engaging Storytelling: Reading Artefacts of Science"
    The material culture of science – artefacts, collections, spaces, specimens – has been increasingly used as primary sources for the history of science, technology and medicine. However, due to tradition, past practices, object perceptions, and contingencies related to collecting, among others, scientific museums are often poorly prepared to document collections and respond to the demands of the "material turn" in history. In this workshop, I will explain why this is so important for contemporary museums – storytelling, diverse narratives about the past, "decolonization," etc. – and propose a simple and practical tool for documenting artefacts (the "Gessner Map"). Participants will be asked to engage with artefacts (despite the workshop being online).
    Marta C. Lourenço is the present director of the Museum of Science and Natural History of the University of Lisbon (MUHNAC). She has background training in Physics (University of Lisbon), a MA in Museology (Nova, Lisbon) and a PhD in Museology and History of Technology (CNAM, Paris). She is the national coordinator of PRISC (Portuguese Research Infrastructure of Scientific Collections). She teaches Material Culture of Science in the Masters of History and Philosophy of Science (Faculty of Sciences, University of Lisbon) and is a research member of CIUHCT, the Interuniversity Research Centre for the History of Science and Technology (University of Lisbon).

  • March 3, 2023

    Ally Fulton (University of California-Davis), “Stenographic Specimens in the Preservation of American Science”

  • February 3, 2023

    Nuala Caomhanach (New York University), "From Unique to Ubiquitous: The Conflict of Endemism in Conservation Law"

  • December 2, 2022

    Garrett Dash Nelson (Leventhal Map and Education Center, Boston Public Library) “More or Less in Common: Environmental Justice in the Urban Landscape”

  • November 4, 2022

    Tad Brown (University of Cambridge), “Peanut Traces: Collecting Arachis from the Telegraph Line in Brazil”
    "In this paper, I trace the enrolment a specific peanut, Arachis nambyquarae Hoehne, into scientific networks as a method for understanding how Brazil became known as the geographic origin of peanuts. The species was named after an Amerindian group in Matto Grosso as well as the scientist who published its first description. Botanists would later reclassify this peanut as a variety within domesticated Arachis. The taxonomic reversal offers support for the argument that the study of plant diversity includes ideas about human diversity."

  • May 6, 2022

    Brooke Penaloza Patzak, FWF Schrödinger Fellow/ Visiting Scholar, University of Pennsylvania: “Geographic Provinces as a Doctrine and Framework for Scientific Collection and Display, 1860-1900"

  • April 1, 2022

    Katherine Arnold, London School of Economics: "Interpreting the Collector's Logic: The Pursuit of Desiderata in Early Nineteenth-Century Southern Africa"

  • March 4, 2022

    Andrea Marshall, Centre for Media and Celebrity Studies: "Zines as Nonbinary Objects and Questions of Privilege"

  • February 4, 2022

    Katherine McLeod, New York University: "What to do about rats in the archive," from her dissertation, "How to Display a Hoatzin: Ecology, Eugenics, and Zoology in the Early 20th Century United States"

Group Conveners

  • reedgochberg's picture

    Reed Gochberg

    Dr. Gochberg is Associate Curator and Manager of Exhibitions at the Concord Museum, and she teaches in the Museum Studies program at Harvard Extension School. She holds a PhD in English from Boston University and is the author of Useful Objects: Museums, Science, and Literature in Nineteenth-Century America (Oxford University Press, 2021).


  • ahlink09's picture

    Adrianna Link

    Dr. Link is Head of Scholarly Programs at the American Philosophical Society. She received her PhD in History of Science from The Johns Hopkins University.


  •'s picture

    Jesse Smith

    Jesse Smith is director of curatorial affairs at the Science History Institute, where he oversees exhibitions and other interpretive projects in the history of science. He is also associate editor of the journal History and Technology. Jesse earned his PhD in the history and sociology of science at the University of Pennsylvania.


204 Members