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Participating in Victorian natural history through the illustrated periodical

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The practice of illustrating Victorian natural history periodicals was widespread throughout the century. Yet the value, meaning and intent of these illustrations as objects of scientific evidence within an essential site of scientific communication is little understood. Focusing on the genre of the natural history journal between 1840 and 1890, this talk will evaluate the role of illustrations in offering an access point for the amateur naturalists to participate within the knowledge community of the Victorian periodical. A key aspect in this analysis will be to differentiate between authors and readers of competing periodicals in order to evaluate whether there is an overlap between contributors and consumers of the Victorian periodical. In this way, this paper will pay particular attention to the category of the non-professional author and illustrator in order to better understand the role of the periodical in giving access to a wide audience to the sites of production and reproduction of nineteenth-century natural history. Highlighting the website www.sciencegossip.org, the paper will also draw parallels between the historical practice of uncovering participants in Victorian natural history through the periodical with the modern practice of utilizing digital humanities tools – particularly citizen science/humanities – to generate and forward historical research.

This talk is part of the Cabinet of Natural History series.

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