Jenna Tonn

Ph.D. Candidate
Department of the History of Science
Harvard University

2012 to 2013
Dissertation Research Fellow

The Show-Room and the Workshop: The Laboratory within the Natural History Museum and the Development of American Biology, 1850 – 1935

Through archival research and a close attention to interdisciplinary methods in the history of science, the history of architecture, and material culture, my dissertation reconstructs the American natural history museum as a unique site for the practice of modern biology between 1850 and 1935. Using two case studies – the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University and the Smithsonian U. S. National Museum – this project provides new insights into how the practice of experimental biology emerged from and inscribed itself on to the natural history museum. Reading the archival material germane to institutional histories of science (museum records, correspondence, curatorial reports, personal papers, and specimen accessioning records) against those often used to write architectural history (blue prints, construction photos, and architectural records) results in a rich and textured understanding of the spatial context in which knowledge about the natural world was produced. Read Jenna's report on her PACHS-sponsored research here.