CALL FOR PAPERS: Cultures of Collecting, 1500-1750

Cultures of Collecting, 1500-1750: a one-day conference organised by the Centre for Early Modern Studies, Oxford University

Wednesday 14 June 2017, Corpus Christi College, Oxford

On the 400th anniversary of the birth of Elias Ashmole, we invite proposals that address any aspect of the cultures of collecting in England and Europe, ca. 1500-1750, from any disciplinary perspective, including material culture, art history, visual studies, museum studies, social history, and literary scholarship. 

Papers might focus on major early modern collectors (Hans Sloane, Elias Ashmole, John Tradescant Jr and Sr), but also lesser-known figures. 
  • What were the motives and mechanics of collecting? 
  • How did early moderns understand curiosity and preservation; wonder and taxonomy; variety and system?
  • What was the relationship between utility and display? 
  • How did Wunderkammern shape and transmit new categories of knowledge? 
  • What were the links between cabinets of curiosities and book collections and libraries? 
  • How did the practices of collecting shape broader cultural trends? 
  • How do literary texts respond to collecting? 
  • Is there a connection between collecting objects and the circulation and gathering of commonplaces; between gathering things and gatherings words (or literary invention)? 
  • What were the relationships between collecting, biography, and self-expression? 
  • How ideological were collections, and how was the politics of collecting expressed and understood? What are the methodological challenges of reconstructing collections today? 
  • How can we read catalogues and textual records of now-dispersed collections?

Please send 300-word proposals for a 20-minute paper, and a brief CV, to Dr Natasha Simonova ( by 10 April 2017.