The Medieval Garden of the Humble Administrator in Suzhou, China

Designed at human scale, Chinese gardens are meant to be comfortable, intriguing, and pleasing at every turn. Introduction Extensive gardens are recorded in China from the third century B.C.E. onward. The scholar’s garden is often considered the most complete expression of the Chinese garden, especially in the late Ming (1573-1644) and Qing dynasties (1616-1911). These[…]

Gardens as Pleasurable Microcosms: Comparisons and Connections

Wealthy patrons, like kings and emperors, often commissioned prominent artists and architects to design their gardens. Introduction Art is designed for a great many purposes, but much art is also, if not exclusively, designed to provide and reflect a sense of pleasure. A palace might be intended to display the power and wealth of a[…]

Birds of the Pacific: American Museum of Natural History’s Hidden Masterpiece

The Whitney hall was once one of the crown jewels of the museum, alongside the halls of African and North American mammals. By Jonathan MeiburgOrnithologist Visitors to the American Museum of Natural History’s popular Butterfly Conservatorycould be forgiven a moment’s confusion when they enter the exhibit through an archway marked ‘Birds of the Pacific.’ A framed[…]

The Celebration of Nature in Victorian Poetry

The pervading strength and influence of Christianity becomes apparent in the abundance of religious poetry created during the Victorian period. Introduction Despite the publication of Darwin’s radical text On the Origin of Species  (1859),which promoted a theory of evolution that directly threatened the authority of Genesis, the pervading strength and influence of Christianity becomes apparent in[…]

The One-Armed Geologist Whose Daring Colorado River Descent Made the Grand Canyon Famous

John Wesley Powell’s expedition opened the West. He then devoted his life to protecting it. In May 1869, ten men climbed into four small, wooden rowboats to attempt what no one had dared before: descend the Colorado River through the unknown, frightening confines of the Grand Canyon. The leading explorer of the day, John C.[…]

Icescapes: A History of Exploring and Printing the Arctic

Arctic ice has long proved a stern adversary to explorers. Exploring the representation of this fearful foe by explorers across the centuries. As Francis Spufford’s 2003 book I May Be Some Time: Ice and the English Imagination argues, ice has a powerful hold on the English imagination. Today this is commonly articulated by summoning the names of[…]