Speaker: Cat Madruga (Natural History Museum, Berlin)

The scientific agenda of geographical distribution and variability of animal and plant species was supported in the late 19th and early 20th century by the accumulation and management of large-scale collections of specimens sampled from diverse localities. Collecting places and points of origin of collecting events were and are therefore crucial information; however, scientific localities in catalogues are the product of a geographical bias that results in more information about well-travelled places than inaccessible or unexplored landscapes. In sum, specimens in natural history collections come from places where particular humans “were,” and are framed by a situated and embodied set of practices and epistemologies. This paper presents on-going research that sets out from museum catalogues and animal specimens in order to reflect on how scientific localities of extraction are often related to capitalistic access to logistical and infrastructure networks and to colonial cartography.

Dr Catarina Madruga is a historian of zoological collections and of their entanglements with colonial politics and European representations of the African continent. She is currently working at the Center for the Humanities of Nature, Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.

IHR Seminar SeriesLondon Group of Historical Geographers


On access: locality as a central cataloguing category in zoology collections