Monday, November 27, 2017

Recap - Mud

Armed with appropriate refreshments and entertainment for the end-of-term party, we met for the final time in the wonderful Watson Gallery on Monday 27th November. We read and discussed a selection of poems which in different ways used mud, soil, or earth to contemplate themes of transience, nostalgia, mortality, embodiment, sensory engagement, warfare, regionality, ritual, heritage, and more. Many thanks to everyone for their thoughtful contributions to the conversation!

Below, Charissa's photos of Simon's poetic illustrations.

UL exhibition: Landscapes Below: Mapping and the New Science of Geology

A new, fascinating exhibition on mapping and geology by Allison Ksiazkiewicz (who completed her MPhil and PhD in HPS) at the University Library. See here for a good overview, and sign up here for special tours of the exhibition led by Allison.

The exhibition runs from November 25, 2017 to March 29, 2018 at Cambridge University Library's Milstein Exhibition Centre. Admission is free. Opening times are Mon-Fri 9am-6pm and Saturday 9am-16.30pm. Closed Sundays.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

27th November - Mud

Our final meeting for Michaelmas 2017 - as well as our end-of-term party - will take place on Monday 27th November from 7.30-9pm in the Watson Gallery, Department of Earth Sciences.

We will be contemplating earthly poetics: mud as medium, metaphor, material. To prepare, please read as many poems from our muddy anthology as you'd like:
All welcome!

Reminder - Whipple Library display

Detail from Mary Buckland, 'View of the Axmouth landslip...', 1839.

A reminder that the fantastic small exhibition at the Whipple Library of works from the history of the earth sciences donated by Martin Rudwick is still on display - do go and see it if you haven't yet had the chance!

Recap - Mountain

Our third meeting took place on a chilly Monday evening, which brought at least a hint of the Canadian climate to Cambridge. Charissa gave a fabulous, wide-ranging introduction to the set readings, putting them into a wider context of the role of mountains in geology and tourism; in ideas and ideals of masculinity and conquest; in the presence of women in the literary and photographic record of early 20th-century mountaineering; in the variety of ways in which women participated in climbing, photographing, collecting, reporting, or conversing; and through the particular biographies of some of the extraordinary women whose works we read.

We learned about the role groups such as the Alpine Club of Canada - from whose journal the selected readings were taken - had in putting a Canadian 'stamp' on mountaineering, ensuring that Canadians, too, could claim 'first' ascents. We learned of the social cohesiveness of these clubs, with most members being middle-class/professionals; and that there were a significant number of women who joined. We learned how the Canadian-Pacific railway made the Rockies newly accessible for trade, travel, and exploration, and how an economy was established along its route. 'The Alpine Club of Canada' gave a sense of the possibilities of patriotism and participation the group hoped to foster.

Considering the appreciation of mountains from the 18th/19thC as locations for especially picturesque or spiritual experiences, we compared how these women often spoke about their physical, tactile contact with mountains. Mountaineering was an overtly embodied endeavour (as 'A Graduating Climb' detailed): a combination of 'the flesh-stuff and the soul-stuff', which had - so these writers claimed - benefits for health, including for female bodies, as laid out by 'Mountain Climbing for Women'.

We discussed the different ways of writing about the mountains to be found in one journal - or even in one article. From the humour of Ethel Johns, to the scientific precision of 'Observations on Glaciers', or the wonderful photographic illustrations to 'Untrodden Ways', women's variegated mountain experiences were well captured in the writings. 'Untrodden Ways' also made mention of the First Nations peoples who lived, worked, and climbed in these regions, acknowledging their previous presence.

We looked in more detail at the biographies of Mary Vaux (see the marvellous photographs online at 'Mary M. Vaux: A Picture Journal': lots of wonderful mountaineering images; Her botanical illustrations are also on Wikipedia), Mary Schaffer (more on her here) and Mollie Adams, who suffered an unfortunate encounter with Rudyard Kipling, and Elizabeth Parker.

Overall, we felt privileged to have, through their writings, photographs, and records, joined these women on their ascents and adventures. Next time: mud, glorious mud.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Vacancy for Archivist (Early Collections) at the Royal Society

Vacancy: Archivist (Early Collections) Permanent, full time
Location: Royal Society (Carlton House Terrace, London)
Deadline: 17 November 2017
Interview date: 28 November 2017

The Royal Society is the independent scientific academy in the UK and the Commonwealth and our aim is to recognise, promote and support excellence in science, and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity. The Royal Society is the oldest scientific academy in continuous existence. The Society owns some of the world's most important collections relating to history of science, including organisational archives and manuscripts of its Fellows. We are recruiting for an Archivist (early collections). The post will be responsible for the care, cataloguing and management of the Society's historical archives and donated collections of manuscripts, generally from the 17th to the early 20th century. The post-holder will work closely with the Archivist (Modern Records), particularly in relation to the transfer of modern records into the Society's archives database, but also in developing and maintaining appropriate authority and cataloguing structures and standards - most importantly on the Society's Fellowship. The post-holder will also work with the Digitisation Manager in the creation of new digital resources, based upon archival holdings. The Archivist is charged with the preservation of the Society's collections into the future and with the acquisition of additional materials relating to the Society's history and Fellowship. The post supports the Royal Society's objectives aimed at encouraging academic study of the history of science and in inspiring audiences. The post-holder will be expected to articulate the importance of these history of science resources and aid in their wider dissemination.

For more information and to apply, please follow the link to the Royal Society Jobs portal.

For questions about the role, please contact
For other enquiries, contact

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

'Analogy' at Philosophy of Historical Sciences Reading Group

The next meeting of the Philosophy of Historical Sciences Reading Group will take place next Thursday, 16 November, 11-12:30 in the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research Seminar Room.

The theme is 'Analogy', with 2 suggested readings by Adrian Currie and Rune Nyrup. You can find the readings here (given the combined length of the texts, those interested can only skim the ideas, as a basis for the discussion)

Tea, coffee and Leibniz biscuits provided.

Best wishes, Alexandra, Adrian and Rune

Monday, November 06, 2017

CFP: Climate Hack - University of Cambridge Museums

Friday 19th - Sunday 21st January 2018

Over three days, four museums in Cambridge will be handing over control to teams of people to shake up how they share stories about climate change. From Friday morning to Sunday afternoon, participants will collaborate in multi-disciplinary teams to create a prototype museum installation or experience in one of our collections. The teams will be put together by the Climate Hack organisers to ensure that they each have the right combination of skills to bring a brilliant new idea to life – whether it’s a 3D interactive, an audio interpretation, an immersive experience or a hands on challenge, the choice is yours! At the end of the weekend the prototypes will be revealed for the public to play with and enjoy.

More information available online here.

Deadline for submission: 10pm, Sunday 26 November 2017

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

13th November - Mountain

Our third meeting of term features selections from early numbers of the Canadian Alpine Journal, in which several women discuss their experiences of climbing the Rockies. All are welcome to join us from 7.30-9pm in the Department of Earth Sciences! Suitable mountaineering apparel is not compulsory.

Recap - Ground

Edmond Halley advertises the Reading Group's meeting
Our second meeting of term ventured under the Earth's surface, as we discussed a classic of so-called 'Hollow Earth' fiction, paired with an argument for why there might plausibly be separate spheres held within our own terrestrial globe.

We explored how both texts used literary strategies to present their events or reasoning processes as likely extensions of currently-known observations, creatures, or societies. We thought about fantastical travel narratives and their relationships with other genres: how speculative fictions as well as tours of underworlds were used to frame understandings of what might be found underfoot. We saw how the two texts in question connected what we might call intraterrestrial writings with extraterrestrial writings, as the interior of the Earth was compared with other planets, whether Saturn's rings, the Moon, or new planets waiting to be discovered.

The evening ended with a wonderful tour of Simon's lab - and other highlights of the Department of Earth Sciences, including the dinosaur-clad library bookcases - where we were able to glimpse the current work ongoing to illuminate changes in the  Earth's magnetic field.

Next time we ascend the Canadian Rockies.