Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Captivity: Assembling Nature’s Histories

May 17 @ 9:15 am - 5:30 pm

Conference organized by Anna Chen, Rebecca Fenning Marschall, and Bronwen Wilson, University of California, Los Angeles

The conference is free to attend with advance registration, and will be held in-person at the Clark Library and livestreamed on the Center’s YouTube Channel. No registration is required to watch the livestream. In-person registration closed on Monday, May 13. Seating is limited at the Clark Library; walk-in registrants are welcome as space permits.

The early modern period was a hothouse for the study of physical things in the natural world, and for the collection and assembly of them in human-made physical spaces. In other periods, botanical samples were preserved by diarists in their journals, such as Poems and Riddles written by Mary Woodyeare Tibbits (ca. 1764–1840), and Pressed specimens of butterflies and moths (1905), compiled by Yasushi Nawa (1857–1926), which are both in the Clark Library’s collections. Nawa’s lepidochromic book showcases the technique of “printing butterflies,” or fixing the scales of their wings onto paper. Specimens of all sorts were admired for their variegated colors, curated in collections, and assembled into books. Birds were captured in aviaries for their sounds, or killed and prepared as specimens for display, study, and scientific descriptions. Plants were transported across oceans in terraria, and contained in plots and glasshouses.

Libraries were deeply implicated in these historical pursuits of the collection and classification of the contents of the natural world, as are modern libraries that now grapple with whether and how to preserve the nature that enters their collections. The interior-exterior division of libraries is a highly regulated boundary. Libraries strive tirelessly to seal the building envelope against the environmental conditions of the outdoors, as fluctuating temperature and humidity levels, mold spores, insects, rodents and natural disasters all threaten damage to their holdings. Libraries also capture books about nature on their shelves, as flora and fauna cohabitate on their grounds. At the Clark Library, Cooper hawks nest, feral cats roam, and roots of trees probe the ground in search of water. What might we learn from these efforts to capture and to conserve nature, coupled with its potential to decompose or to invade environments?


May 17
9:15 am - 5:30 pm


UCLA William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
View Organizer Website


William Andrews Clark Memorial Library
2520 Cimarron Street
Los Angeles, CA 90018 United States
+ Google Map
View Venue Website