Back to Calendar

Making Room: Cartography, Collecting, and the Construction of Empire

Dyrham Park. Image courtesy of Louis Nelson.


Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy Street
Cambridge MA

How does one make an empire? Empires are not just aggregated, they also have to be imagined. And as many scholars have shown, cartography is a principal tool for such imaginings. Empires, though, are also collected: aggregations of territories but also collections of objects that stand in for these distant lands.

Through the closing years of the 17th century, William Blathwayt, Britain’s senior colonial administrator, built, expanded, and populated a new house at Dyrham Park that served this very purpose. In this lecture, Louis Nelson, professor of architectural history and associate dean in the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia, will explore how the materials, maps, and exotica displayed in the rooms of Dyrham Park were critical agents in the making of an empire.

This program is the keynote lecture for the symposium The Room Where It Happens: On the Agency of Interior Spaces (October 13–14) at the Harvard Art Museums.

The symposium is offered in conjunction with the current special exhibition, The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766–1820 (May 19–December 31, 2017), which considers the varied people, ideas, and objects that animated this important room in Harvard’s history.

The lecture will take place in Menschel Hall, Lower Level. Please enter the museums via the entrance on Broadway. Doors will open at 5:30pm.

The symposium is presented as part of HUBweek 2017 (October 10–15). The program is free and open to the public, but seating is limited and registration is required. Please register here.

Following the lecture, the Philosophy Chamber exhibition will remain open until 8pm.

Complimentary parking available in the Broadway Garage, 7 Felton Street, Cambridge.

Major support for the Philosophy Chamber exhibition has been provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Henry Luce Foundation.

The exhibition and catalogue were also supported in part by the following endowed funds: the Bolton Fund for American Art, Gift of the Payne Fund; the Henry Luce Foundation Fund for the American Art Department; the William Amory Fund; and the Andrew W. Mellon Publication Funds, including the Henry P. McIlhenny Fund.