Natural History Collecting in Late Colonial New Spain: Highlights from the JCB Collection

Frontispiece from Museum Wormianum. Seu, Historia rerum rariorum, 1655.

This week, our speaker is Anna Toledano, a PhD candidate at Stanford University studying history of science. Her academic research focuses on natural history collecting in eighteenth-century Spain and Spanish America. Anna is also a museum professional and has developed interpretive content for diverse museum institutions. She holds an MA in Museum Anthropology from Columbia University and an AB in History of Science from Princeton University.

There are little to no physical remnants of objects today from natural history collections in colonial Spanish America. In order to reconstitute these collections, scholars must bring plants, animals, and minerals back to life from texts, as we do with our human historical actors. The JCB holds numerous documents that provide a window onto these eighteenth-century science collections in places such as Mexico City and Guatemala City. This talk will highlight manuscript materials unique to the JCB collection, as well as rare materials found here and in very few other libraries across the globe, that tell us vital details about who collected natural history in the former region of New Spain, what they collected, and why.