GEEK LOVE – 25 Anniversary – WIRED Magazine

To honor the 25 anniversary of Katherine Dunn’s masterpiece Geek Love, WIRED Magazine has written the following retrospective. Featured in the article is one of my pieces – The Conjoined Twins Elly & Iphy.

I cannot express how extremely honored I feel to be included in this retrospective. Geek Love is without a doubt my favorite book ever and one of the major inspirations for my becoming an artist and photographer.




Evolution at the Circus continued…

Following the last post on P.T. Barnum and Joseph Leidy, below is a reprint of the Fall 2011 article as it appeared in the Academy’s Members Magazine, Frontiers.

Article by Brandon Zimmerman and Clare Flemming, ANSP Brooke Dolan Archivist.

What could the world’s most famous showman and the father of evolutionary theory possibly have in common? They, among thousands of other 19th-century notables, corresponded with the pre-eminent scientist of their time, Dr. Joseph Leidy (1823-1891). Leidy was an Academy curator for decades and the Academy president from 1882 until
his death. His expertise spanned so many disciplines that he is remembered today for expertise in fields as diverse as vertebrate paleontology and parasitology.

The Academy Archives contain close to 3,000 handwritten letters from a vast and varied selection of individuals who sought Leidy’s opinion. Two of the most legendary and unusual correspondents represent the extremes of the broad spectrum of authorities in natural history: evolutionist Charles Darwin and circus showman P.T. Barnum.

Darwin’s letter, in which he comments on Leidy’s support of Darwin’s theory of natural selection, is an Archival gem; Academy staff display it with great reverence for visiting VIPs and researchers. Barnum’s letter came about after his purchase of Jumbo, an elephant that he believed to be the largest in the world. While touring in Philadelphia, Barnum wrote to naturalist Leidy to request an evaluation of this extraordinary creature’s size. His
letter was newly revealed when Brooke Dolan Archivist Clare Flemming shared the collection of Leidy’s correspondence with scholar Brandon Zimmerman. Not satisfied with reading a list of signatories, the scholar asked to see the actual letters. He may
have been the first to recognize the Barnum letter as having been written by the famous showman. A typo in the Academy’s Guide to Manuscripts listing the letter as belonging to “N.T. Barnum” may have caused other scholars to overlook Barnum’s correspondence. Below we present a few lines from these letters:

March 4, 1860
Dear Sir, Your note has pleased me more than you could readily believe; for I have during a long time heard all good judges speak of your palaeontological labours in terms of the highest respect. Most palaeontologists (with some few good exceptions) entirely despise my work; consequently approbation from you has gratified me much. Your sentence that you have some interesting facts “in support of the doctrine of selection, which I shall report
at a favourable opportunity,” has delighted me even more than the rest of your note. Pray forgive this egotistical note and with cordial thanks for your letter … Believe me Dear Sir, With sincere respect, Yours obliged,
Charles Darwin

April 28, 1882
Prof. Leidy D[ea]r Sir,
I hope you will examine the Jumbo & write me to Arlington House Washington whether you think he is really an ordinary [or extraordinary] Elephant.
P. T. Barnum

The art of archiving allows a lifetime of messages received and stored by the original owner to be carefully identified, curated, and housed for many years; rehoused and catalogued;
and finally—most importantly—made available to scholars to study, interpret, and present to the world.

Evolution at the Circus

Read about a letter I found in the Archives of the Academy of Natural Sciences from legendary circus showman P.T. Barnum, to Philadelphia’s own “Father of American Vert. Paleontology and Parasitology” Joseph Leidy regarding his famous elephant “Jumbo.” This letter was featured as part of the Academy of Natural Sciences 200 years. 200 stories, an online celebration of ANSP’s Bicentennial.

Follow the link below to see the entire post.


Morton Skull Collection images included in UPENN Museum symposium!

Last night a symposium was presented by The University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archeology and Anthropology and the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Neuroscience & Society entitled From Skulls to Scans: How Brain Measurements Have Been Used, Misused and Misunderstood in the Study of Racial Differences. Interdisciplinary presenters included the wonderful Janet Monge, PhD, Curator Penn Museum who spoke on the history of The Morton Collection with a talk entitled Of Mice, Men and Morton: How Brain Size Was (And Is!) Misused to Measure Intelligence; Geoffrey Aguirre, MD, PhD, who spoke on brain imaging with a talk entitled Modern Brain Imaging of Group Differences: How Things Can Still Go Wrong; followed by a commentary by Dorothy Robertson, JD.

The presentations were wonderful and informative and further demonstrate the need of museums, and universities to hold more interdisciplinary lectures and symposiums of this kind – that is to say, those that bridge gaps between archeology and medical science, art and medicine, etc.

But, as fabulous as the lecture was, on a more personal note, several of my images and a brief mention of my research with the Morton Collection was shown as part of Dr. Monge’s lecture, which was a true honor and so very, very, exciting!! click on the image below.