Exhibition: "Tangible things" - Special Exhibition Gallery of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, Harvard Science Center 251 - Open from January 24 - May 29, 2011

January 24 to May 29, 2011

Tigers, teapots, typewriters. Thoreau's turtle.
And a hundred-year-old tortilla.

Over the centuries Harvard has amassed millions of objects. A few are on display. Most are locked away in storage, accessible only to researchers or to the lucky student who stumbles upon them. This exhibit brings together 200 objects from the back rooms and Z-closets of Harvard's museums and libraries.

Where did all this stuff come from? Why does it matter? And what happens when scientific specimens, artworks, historical relics, and ethnographic artifacts sit down together?

Visit the core exhibition in the Special Exhibition Gallery of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, Harvard Science Center 251. Then look for guest objects tucked among regular displays at the Sackler Museum, Peabody Museum, Harvard Museum of Natural History, Semitic Museum, Houghton Library, and Schlesinger Library.

[For a full copy of the exhibition flyer and clues to the scavenger hunt: http://www.harvardartmuseums.org/exhibitions/docs/2011_TangibleThings_Fl...

Questioning the modern Western intellectual categories that distinguish art from artifact, specimen from tool, and the historical from the anthropological, Tangible Things brings together materials from Harvard's museum and archival collections. Beginning in the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, the exhibition introduces visitors to established ways of organizing things and challenges them to classify an assortment of objects according to these conventions. Where in the university do items like John Singer Sargent's palette or the beads and dress of a Camp Fire Girl belong? Why? Armed with these questions, visitors are invited to discover the many guest objects carefully inserted into exhibitions of Harvard's public museums.

Tangible Things is the foundation for the General Education course "Tangible Things: Harvard Collections in World History."

Curated by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, 300th Anniversary University Professor, History Department; and Ivan Gaskell, Senior Lecturer, History Department; with Sara Schechner, David P. Wheatland Curator of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments; and Sarah Anne Carter, Lecturer on History and Literature. Organized by the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments.

Harvard University campus locations and public hours:

Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, Special Exhibitions Gallery and Putnam Gallery
Science Center, 1 Oxford Street
Monday-Thursday, 9am-5pm; Friday, 9am-4pm

Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum
485 Broadway
Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-5pm

Harvard Museum of Natural History
26 Oxford Street
Daily, 9am-5pm

Houghton Library
Harvard Yard
Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm

Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
11 Divinity Avenue
Daily, 9am-5pm

Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
10 Garden Street
Monday-Friday, 9:30am-5pm

Semitic Museum
6 Divinity Avenue
Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm; Sunday, 1-4pm

This exhibition is made possible by funding from the Harvard Arts Initiative, Harvard College Program in General Education, the Office of the Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Office of the Provost, and the Harvard Art Museums' Gurel Student Exhibition Fund.

Sara J. Schechner, Ph.D.
David P. Wheatland Curator of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments
Department of the History of Science, Harvard University
Science Center 251c, 1 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA 02138
Tel: 617-496-9542 | Fax: 617-496-5932 | schechn@fas.harvard.edu