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Encyclopedia or Kaleidoscope? When Private Philosophy Chambers Go Public

Courtesy of James Delbourgo.


Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy Street
Cambridge MA

This event was recorded. Please view the lecture here.

In this lecture, James Delbourgo, associate professor of the history of science and the Atlantic World at Rutgers University, reflects on the restaging of Harvard’s Philosophy Chamber and asks what kind of museological value lies in undoing the specialization of knowledge to return to the universal: does it reconstitute an enlightened encyclopedism or ignite a chain reaction of kaleidoscopic juxtapositions? Given the apparent contrast between secretive early modern universalism and the public character of modern specialized knowledge, what does it mean to restage private philosophy chambers for public audiences in 2017?

This program is presented in conjunction with the special exhibition The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766–1820, on view through December 31, 2017.

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.

Free admission, but limited seating is available. Tickets will be distributed beginning at 5:30pm at the Broadway entrance. One ticket per person.

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

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

Support for the lecture is provided by the M. Victor Leventritt Fund, which was established through the generosity of the wife, children, and friends of the late M. Victor Leventritt, Harvard Class of 1935. The purpose of the fund is to present outstanding scholars of the history and theory of art to the Harvard and Greater Boston communities.

Major support for the 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.