Inaugural Cressida Jervis Read Seminar - “Archives of Loss and Wonder”: Writing a History of Fossil Heritage in South Asia

Please note change of venue for this seminar - Lecture Theatre, Faculty of History

Fossils from the Indian subcontinent are a common sight in natural history museums around the world, which testifies to their importance as objects of education and scientific research. The collections at the Natural History Museum in London and the Yale Peabody Museum in New Haven are among the most sizeable, but smaller ones exist in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, the Palaeontological Collection at the University of Tübingen, Manchester Museum, and Tohoku University’s Museum of Natural History. These assemblages have different genealogies that are not always easy to document. Indeed, it is ironic that the specimens themselves, though often difficult to transport, seem to have travelled more easily than information about their complicated histories. Drawing on examples from such material archives of Earth science, the talk considers how South Asian fossil heritage has provided a scientific lens through which to investigate the deep past of the planet and how it has been used to weave that past into the politics of the present and the making of the future. Following Laura Ogden, I argue that such collections archive layered forms of loss, but also wonder, and consider what this teaches us in times of ecological precarity.

This talk will be followed by a drinks reception in the Common Room.

For those unable to make it to Oxford, please register to attend online via Zoom at: