Hidden Histories of Insect Collections: Women, Empire, and Entomology in the Early Eighteenth Century


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Innovation Fellowships




“Hidden Histories of Insect Collections” reaches across disciplines and institutions to make visible to public audiences the hidden histories behind insect specimens belonging to the 300-year old James Petiver Historical Entomology Collection held at the Natural History Museum of London. Between 1690 and 1720, a diverse range of marginalized actors—women, enslaved people, children, indigenous people, and servants—contributed to the collection. This dissertation draws on methodologies from digital humanities, museum studies, historical biography, and the biological sciences to excavate their presence. Three interrelated projects retell their stories: a digital, interactive social network analysis of contributors; a public exhibition on the Petiver insect collection; and a biography of the English entomologist, Eleanor Glanville. By bringing the collection into the public eye and unpacking the stories held within it, the dissertation prompts critical public discussions on the intertwined developments of natural history, gender, and empire.