Project Description

Seeing New World Nature

How does culture shape one’s view of nature? As they encountered New World flora, fauna, and people, early modern Europeans marveled at the diversity of nature and tried to develop new systems of taxonomy to organize its wonders. Take on the role of naturalist and try to make sense of nature’s many forms for yourself using the Vikus Viewer image exploration tool.

This collection, largely drawn from the Lesser Antilles archive at Hamilton College, features plants and animals rendered from 1400 to 1800. The keywords represent categories that contemporary and modern observers would use to make order out of the natural diversity depicted here.

Vikus Viewer
Image Exploration Tool

As Michel Foucault wrote in The Order of Things (1966), “in the wonderment of this taxonomy, the thing we apprehend in one great leap, the thing that, by means of the fable, is demonstrated as the exotic charm of another system of thought, is the limitation of our own, the stark impossibility of thinking that.” Order, In short, the Viewer encourages one to experience how nature is culturally constructed as much as biologically inherent.