by Geoff Belknap
I have just joined the Centre for Arts and Humanities Research (CAHR) at the NHM, in collaboration with the University of Leicester, as a postdoctoral fellow on the AHRC project Constructing Scientific Communities: Citizen Science in the 19th and 21st Centuries.
The project as a whole is looking at how non-professionals – whether termed lay, amateur or citizen – participated in the production and communication of science through historical and modern media platforms.
The project works in collaboration with scientists at the University of Oxford who are putting our historical analysis into action. Through the Zooniverse project scholars in the physics department are creating digital platforms which harness the power of the ‘citizen scientist’ to create data for a range of scientific disciplines.
The historical strand of this project, which is the side I work on, is investigating this question – how an amateur participated in science - through the lens of the Victorian periodical. My work, aims to understand how illustrations reproduced in natural history periodicals over the period of 1840-1890 allowed a range of audiences to participate in the production and communication of knowledge about the natural world. The excellent collections of periodicals at the NHM form the base of this research – in particular the unparalleled range of English local natural history society journals. I come to both the NHM and this project as a historian of Victorian science, visual culture and periodical history. My PhD, which was completed at the University of Cambridge in 2011, focused on the reproduction of photographic images within late Victorian periodicals. I have also worked as a researcher and post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University on both the Charles Darwin and John Tyndall Correspondence Projects.