The Harvard Art Museums have been awarded a $250,000 grant from the Terra Foundation for American Art to support the upcoming special exhibition “The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766–1820.” The exhibition, featuring more than 100 works, will present exciting new scholarship on Harvard’s 18th-century Philosophy Chamber, one of the most unusual and distinctive centers for early American art, history, and science. The grant will in part also enable the exhibition to travel to The Hunterian, at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. Following its May 19 through Dec. 31, 2017 run at the Harvard Art Museums, the exhibition will be on display March 23 to June 24, 2018 at The Hunterian.
A grand room adjacent to the Harvard College Library, the Philosophy Chamber was home to more than 1,000 artifacts, natural specimens, scientific instruments, and works of art donated to the college and dispatched to Cambridge from points across the globe. Named for the discipline of natural philosophy—a cornerstone of the Enlightenment-era curriculum that wove together astronomy, mathematics, physics, and other sciences that sought to explain natural objects and physical phenomena—the Philosophy Chamber served as a lecture hall, experimental lab, picture gallery, and convening space from 1766 through 1820. Frequented by an array of artists, scientists, travelers, and advocates of American independence, the room and its collections stood at the center of artistic and intellectual life at Harvard and in the New England region for more than 50 years.
Read the full press release here.