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EGENIS seminar series: "Assembling the Dinosaur" Lukas Rieppel (Brown University, USA)

Egenis seminar series

An Egenis, the Centre for the Study of Life Sciences seminar
Date20 May 2019
Time15:30 to 17:00
PlaceByrne House

Although dinosaur fossils were first found in England, a series of dramatic discoveries during the late 19th century turned North America into a world center for vertebrate paleontology. At the same time, the United States emerged as the world’s largest industrial economy, and creatures like tyrannosaurus, brontosaurus, and triceratops became emblems of American capitalism. Large, fierce, and spectacular, American dinosaurs soon dominated the popular imagination, making front-page headlines and appearing in feature films.

Lukas Rieppel follows dinosaur fossils from the dig site to the museum and into the commercial culture of North America’s Long Gilded Age. Business tycoons like Andrew Carnegie and J. P. Morgan made common cause with vertebrate paleontologists to capitalize on the widespread appeal of dinosaurs, founding a new generation of urban museums to cement their own reputations as generous benefactors of science and demonstrate that modern capitalism could produce public goods in addition to profits. Behind the scenes, these museums adopted bureaucratic management practices to streamline the conversion of economic wealth into cultural capital while mounting spectacular exhibits designed to bring a large and socially diverse audience into their public galleries. In these exhibitions, philanthropic museums inserted dinosaurs into a teleological narrative of evolutionary progress that naturalized the period’s controversial transition from a fiercely competitive form of free-market capitalism to a more managed and organized political economy dominated by large corporate firms.


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