02 Apr 2024

Institute for European Global European Studies

Institute for European Global European Studies


Talk by Elisa Sevilla:"Moving birds, snails and tarantulas across the Atlantic in the 19th Century: History of the South American specimen collections in Europe"

Elisa Sevilla is professor of history at the San Francisco de Quito University.

This talk traces how the natural history collections made both by people living in America or European travelers to Ecuador, Colombia and Peru were transported, and then kept and studied in Europe. We will discuss the scientific networks that span the Atlantic and included traveler naturalists from Europe and the Americas, local collectors, guides and hosts, diplomats, merchants and sailors. We will then focus on two less known expeditions from the German speaking Europe: 1) Ludwig Karl Schmarda who visited Ecuador as part of his travels around the world between 1855 and 1856, and 2) The German Jesuit naturalists Christian Boetzkes and Theodor Wolf who participated in the establishment of the Quito Polytechnic School in 1870-1876.

We will analyse Schmarda’s travel diary published in 1861 as “Reise um die Erde in den Jahren 1853–1857” as well as the Jesuits Theodor Wolf and Christian Boetzkes’ published works and manuscripts to talk about their practices of collection of zoological specimens and the participation of local people in this process. We will then discuss how the collections moved across the Atlantic to different scholars and museums in Europe, including Schmarda’s zoological specimens in the Naturhistorisches Museum Wien, the Jesuits bird collections at Konstanz University, and snails studied by Konrad Miller now hosted at the British Natural History Museum.

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