Symbiosis: Art and Science in Natural History Museums and Collections

Symbiosis: Art and Science in Natural History Museums and Collections

We are delighted to announce that the Symbiosis Network will be holding its next conference online on 9th, 11th and 13th November from Oxford University Museum of Natural History, supported by the University of Birmingham. The theme of the conference is Symbiosis: Art and Science in Natural History Museums and Collections. The panels will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. UK time, with free public registration. They will focus on natural history museum architecture and design (9th Nov), palaeoart (11th Nov) and how the arts and sciences can work together to address the challenges of the Anthropocene within museums (13th Nov). Confirmed speakers include representatives of the leading museums in Paris, Pittsburgh, Rio de Janeiro, Copenhagen, Porto, Strasbourg and Vienna, among others.

Session 1: Natural History Museum Design (Mon 9th Nov, 2-5 p.m.)
Since the nineteenth century, natural history museums have been designed to showcase science and the natural world through their architecture as well as their specimens. In this session, we will discuss major building projects and renovations from the twenty-first century to examine the role played by architecture and design in natural history museums today.

Session 2: Palaeoart - Reimagining Neanderthals (Wed 11th Nov, 2-3 p.m.)
With the discovery that Neanderthals and modern humans interbred, we have come to see our relationship to them in very different terms. In the first of three panel discussions on palaeoart, we will be looking at how the arts can help us to reimagine our nearest extinct relatives.

Session 3: Case Studies in the History of Palaeoart (Wed 11th Nov, 3-4 p.m.) 
Ever since the beginning of palaeontology as a science, artists have sought to depict extinct animals and the landscapes they inhabited. In the second of three panel discussions on palaeoart, we will look at how nineteenth- and twentieth-century painters from different countries around the world responded to scientific discoveries and each other’s art in imagining prehistoric life.

Session 4: Palaeoart - Modelling Ancient Life (Wed 11th Nov, 4-5 p.m.) 
Museums don’t only display the fossilised remains of ancient life, but also try to show us what they would have looked like when alive. In the last of three panel discussions on palaeoart, we will look at the techniques involved in modelling extinct animals and plants in museums, today, in the past and into the future.

Session 5: The Anthropocene and the Arts in NHMs (Fri 13th Nov, 2-5 p.m.)
Natural history museums have a key role and responsibility in addressing the environmental crises of climate change, habitat loss and mass extinction brought about by the impact of modern human societies on the natural world. In this final session, we ask leading experts from museums around the world to reflect on how museums can meet this challenge and on how the arts can help enhance their engagement with public audiences at this crucial juncture.

Registration Links:

Session 1: Natural History Museum Design (Mon 9th Nov, 2-5 p.m.)

Session 2: Palaeoart - Reimagining Neanderthals (Wed 11th Nov, 2-3 p.m.)

Session 3: Case Studies in the History of Palaeoart (Wed 11th Nov, 3-4 p.m.)

Session 4: Palaeoart - Modelling Ancient Life (Wed 11th Nov, 4-5 p.m.)

Session 5: The Anthropocene and the Arts in NHMs (Fri 13th Nov, 2-5 p.m.)