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Hidden Spaces of American Natural History in Early Modern Central Europe: Reconstruction of Memory and Experience Narrated by Things

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - HISPANEMA (Hidden Spaces of American Natural History in Early Modern Central Europe: Reconstruction of Memory and Experience Narrated by Things)

Reporting period: 2020-09-01 to 2021-08-31

The objective of the HISPANEMA project is twofold. First, to carry out reconstruction and visualization of once lost and so far still hidden part of European scientific heritage - by investigating the narratives of things, i.e. by investigating their epistemic, cultural, and social lives, by reconstructing their ‘previous lives’ and afterlives.

In doing so, secondly, the project reveals new material and cultural links between two distant environments, imparting alternative narratives of the cultural history of knowledge and science.

The investigation focuses on American naturalia, i.e. ‘natural things’, kept in yet unexplored center European collections and museums (for example, in the Jesuit museum in the Clementinum). The reconstruction of the memory and experience of these things will be achieved by linking the study of inventories, artefacts, or partial references to items included in those collections with diverse texts and images of institutional and personal character, which bring these things to life from various perspectives and reveal their geographic instability, slipperiness, cultural and gender hybridity, multivalence, and categorical fluidity, especially – but not exclusively – in relation to the specific conditions of Central Europe in the era of first globalization.

One of the aims of the HISPANEMA project is to promote interest in the history of science already among elementary school students to encourage children’s interest in research careers, to show the interdisciplinary character of the history of science, highlight its close links with culture and society, and to develop in the general public a more critical approach to selected historical and sociocultural issues.


Conclusions of the action:

The project has generated several important outputs, in form of scientific publications, publications for children, or audio-visual material for a broader impact (see below); currently work is still being done on the finalization of the monograph and the website.

One of the most important impacts of the project was the dissemination of the social and cultural dimension of the problematics -and thus the emphasizing of the importance of the study of the cultural history of science.

Four videos were created and presented in various places, for example, within the Semana de la Ciencia (at CCHS, CSIC), at Real Jardín Botánico, the Instituto Cultural de México (Mexican Embassy), Madrid, and many festivals and events in Mexico. They were also presented on radios and on TV and two of them were selected for documentary film festivals (Muestra Nacional de Imágenes Científicas, Contra el Silencio, etc.).
Another divulgation output of the project is the website HISPANEMA.

Another impact of the project was its scientific activities. The Marie Curie Fellow participated in various congresses, symposiums, lectures, and workshops; and wrote various texts.

During the project implementation, the MC Fellow has gained new thematic, and methodological impulses as well as new contacts, which pushed the boundaries of her internationalization and helped her share and communicate the results of her research.
Project HISPANEMA was significantly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Although the conditions for the implementation of the project were difficult and a number of changes had to be made, the project generated numerous results which have met with a positive reception, both on a scientific and dissemination level.

Among them we can mention above all:

- Four 20-25 minutes divulgation videos were created (two each year) and were presented within the Semana de la Ciencia (at CCHS, CSIC), at Real Jardín Botánico, the Instituto Cultural de México (Mexican Embassy), Madrid and various festivals and events in Mexico.

- The Marie Curie Fellow participated in various congresses, symposiums, lectures, and workshops, and wrote various texts, for example:

- Curar, gozar, experimentar: materia medica novohispana y los jesuitas centroeuropeos,
(chapter in a collective volumen LOS SABERES JESUITAS EN LA PRIMERA GLOBALIZACIÓN (SIGLOS XVI-XVIII), Siglo XXI, eds. A. Morales, J. Maroquín, C. Radding 2022, p. 124-159)

- Flores del tiempo de lluvia. La memoria olfativa del México antiguo y la sensibilidad europea. (chapter for a collective volumen Memoria de los sentidos. El Nuevo Mundo y los sentidos menores, Pimentel, Černá, Morales, eds., finished, in the review process, will be published in 2023)

- Králíci z dýní, jelenovelbloudi a další podivná “monstra” Nového světa v raně novověké střední Evropě (chapter for a collective volumen Zvířata a jejich lidé, ed. Milana Lenderová, Prague, Karolinum, in print, will be published in 2022)

- The Flowering of Ecology: Maria Sibylla Merian’s Caterpillar Book. Kay Etheridge. Trans. Michael Ritterson. Emergence of Natural History 3. Leiden: Brill, 2020 (book review for Renaissance Quarterly, in print, will be published in September 2022).

- The monograph Hidden Spaces of American natural history in the Early Modern Central Europe will be published in 2023.

- She co-edits (with Juan Pimentel and Angélica Morales) the book Memoria de los sentidos. El Nuevo Mundo y los sentidos menores

- The impact of the project activities is also evidenced by a number of offers to cooperate on other projects and the initiation of this cooperation which arose during the implementation of the project and as a result of it. The Marie Curie Fellow was also awarded the John Carter Brown Library fellowship which will be implemented in Spring-Summer 2023
By investigating the narratives of things, i.e. by investigatingtheir epistemic, cultural, and social lives, by reconstructing their ‘previous lives’ and afterlives, the HISPANEMA project intends to write a new chapter in the cultural history of science, carry out a reconstruction and visualisation of once lost and so far still unknown part of European scientific heritage.

Expected results until the end of the projects are primarily:

- a HISPANEMA website (with new videos and interactive science map)
- a monograph Hidden Spaces of American Natural History in the Early Modern Central Europe
- participation in popularisation activities of the IH-CCHS (including European Researchers’ Night and the Science Week organised by Madrid’s regional government)
- symposium organization

Potential impact of the actions: New international collaboration (networking), sharing of specific
knowledge (original research results), sharing of sources, promote interest in the history of science among students and general public