Thesis / Exhibition


The exhibition took place under the rooftop greenhouse (or the 12th floor) at the Schermerhorn Building on campus. The greenhouse situates right above the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, with Department of Anthropology and Department of Art History on the lower floors. The exhibition opening was on April 28th, 2018, and opened daily from April 30th to May 9th, 2018.

The materials attached in the appendix include a poster, a handout with a short statement, with photographs of the exhibition itself. As an appendix, the thesis exhibition functions as an initiation for future actions. Particular objects included are prints of maps, illustration plates, photographs and research documents.

Given a slice of space in the greenhouse, the exhibition suggests an articulation of the existing space, via delineation and attachment. It takes form of two facing panels and displays visual materials over two historical times. Corresponding to the two chapters in the written thesis, the two fields of images also suggested a travel from one to the other. They thus create a contrast and engender a dialogue in between two historical times. One side shows Fitch’s plates of plants from Hooker’s Eastern Himalayan expedition; The other shows photographs from the later naturalist Wilson’s expeditions. Echoing how naturalists mounting plant photographs in plastic specimen bags onto walls nowadays, the images in the exhibition are hang in a similar way. The illustrations and photographs thus leave the viewers to discover the discrepancies and particularities on the images across, and challenge the roles of photographs, as both science objects and artworks displayed.

At the center is a “Desk of Inspections” that displays the collected materials. It is a direct response to the various materials engaged, while consolidating and reorganizing enchanted actors of nature expeditions. The exhibition displays the materials collected from these expeditions and uses herbarium sheets as the medium of focus. Central for botanical science, the specimen sheets also consolidate, organize, and distribute the materials of this thesis. The descriptions on these herbarium sheets were kept short and concise, in service for a botanical language.

This is limited by the resolution of the photographs obtained. Only Wilson’s photographs could be reprinted without losing resolutions. Forrest and Kingdon-Ward’s photographs are displayed on the center desk.

Exhibition Statement:

Nature expeditions, as ambitious scientific endeavors effused with enlightening overtone, are often not innocent in their underlining implications. This exhibition explores the changing scientific epistemologies in Botany from these expeditions, and traces the changing qualities of the materials involved, from the elaborately illustrated drawings of plants to the mechanically produced photographs. The two fields of images displayed here show the changing documenting tools for naturalists over two historical times: from illustrations of the earlier period to the photographs that came later. These materials engaged in the seed-collecting expeditions disclosed the naturalists’ two different mentalities.

Situates in between the two fields is a herbarium working desk that shows an inspection scene of the Herbarium of the Eastern Himalayas Botanical Expeditions. Specimens are consolidated from the expeditions of the four (and many more) naturalists: late-nineteenth-century naturalist Joseph Dalton Hooker’s Himalayan Expeditions (1847-1851), early-twentieth-century naturalist Ernest Henry Wilson (1899-1911), George Forrest (1904-1905, 1910, 1912-1915, 1917-1920, 1921-1923, 1924-1925, 1930-1931) and Frank Kingdon-Ward (1911-1914, 1921-1922, 1930-1931, 1933, 1947), with the emergence of other male and female native collectors along the way. In the name of science and research, these specimens are now allowed to be re-inspected.