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Birds, Bugs, and Plants

Birds, Bugs, and Blooms: Observing the Natural World in the 18th Century

Through August 2017

Explore the global network of natural history during the 18th century through period prints, drawings and paintings. Following the settlement of the New World, many naturalists, both professional and amateur, traveled throughout the Atlantic world in search of new plant and animal species. Through an exchange of specimens, ideas, and sponsorships these naturalists were able to collect and document birds, bugs and plants from around the globe. These new discoveries lead to the introduction of new gardens, carefully planned and laid to grow transplanted species for further study and enjoyment. 


On view are popular illustrations from notable naturalists like George Edwards and Mark Catesby; as well as items not previously exhibited such as period letters form The Rockefeller Library’s Special Collections. One such letter details the desire of a late 18th-century resident of Norfolk to obtain a gardener for his newly built home. Another describes a technique for preserving bird specimens in tobacco barrels. Together these objects help to depict the rise of natural history in the 18thcentury and how the passion for nature moved away from pure science pursuit to become a global aesthetic phenomenon.

On view in the Shirley H. and Richard D. Roberts Gallery