University Art Gallery

THE NEW BEDFORD CABINET OF NATURAL HISTORY

September 25, 2004 - January 13, 2005

In the CONTEMPORARY ARTISTS GALLERY:

September 25 - October 24, 2004
JESSECA FERGUSON

October 30 - November 28, 2004
RACHEL BERWICK

The development of the New Bedford Cabinet of Natural History has taken more than five years of planning and is ongoing. The goal has been to establish a type of institution that does not exist but could have existed. The focus is on natural history, cultural history, and art. We have taken as our starting point the early 19th century in New Bedford, where significant natural history events took place. We are not attempting to recreate what was or wasn’t collected and studied, however, as much as what could have been. The goal has been to explore and present what we now see as the larger context of that time and today, whether local, national or international.

The New Bedford Cabinet of Natural History is an undertaking that is unlike any attempted before in the museum world, in that it focuses on the relationship between nature and art, but also on how we gain access to cultural history in the process. Our focus is almost exclusively visual, but we are also actively pursuing partnerships with other local cultural and nature preservation organizations.

The space of the University Art Gallery has been transformed into an environment similar to an 18th century Cabinet – a room filled with natural history items, artworks, and archeological and anthropological objects. Natural history items have been borrowed from the former Children’s Museum in Dartmouth, the New Bedford Whaling Museum, and the Lloyd Center for Environmental Studies in Dartmouth. Additional objects and works of art are from private collections and from the collection of the University Art Gallery. Items on display include birds, bird’s eggs, pigs and horse skulls, a human skeleton, dolphin and whale skulls and bones, a large bear, moths and butterflies, fish preserved in jars, fossils, rocks, seeds, and botanical prints from the Renaissance. Our hope is to establish a collection that eventually will have a permanent home in New Bedford, an institution open to the general public, but also a teaching space for the art students of the College of Visual and Performing Arts.
The areas of cultural history that we are initially focusing on include the Enlightenment Period, especially Diderot’s 18th century Encyclopedia, the discovery of Herculaneum and Pompeii and the spread of the artistic rendering of their objects and architecture, and the subsequent influence on art and design. The development of Art Academies and their tradition of studying nature and the human form will also be explored. Prints and books by individual scientists and explorers such as Linnaeus and Agassiz, will also be presented.

Since the Cabinet is being established as a source of inspiration for our art students as well as the general public, and spotlights how nature and history have become a focus of contemporary art, we are also including objects and works of art by artists such as Petah Coyne, Mark Dion, Georg Baselitz, and Douglas Gordon.

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