Making Room: Cartography, Collecting, and the Construction of Empire


Friday, October 13, 2017, 6:00pm to 7:30pm


Menschel Hall, Lower Level, Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy Street, Cambridge MA

This program is the keynote lecture for the symposium The Room Where It Happens: On the Agency of Interior Spaces (October 13–14) at the Harvard Art Museums.

Presented by: Harvard Art Museums
Admission: The symposium is presented as part of HUBweek 2017 (October 10–15). The program is free and open to the public, but seating is limited and registration is required. Please register here. Following the lecture, The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766–1820 exhibition will remain open until 8pm.
Museum Hours: Open daily 10am–5pm. See website for museum admission.

How does one make an empire? Empires are not just aggregated, they also have to be imagined. And as many scholars have shown, cartography is a principal tool for such imaginings. Empires, though, are also collected: aggregations of territories but also collections of objects that stand in for these distant lands.

Through the closing years of the 17th century, William Blathwayt, Britain’s senior colonial administrator, built, expanded, and populated a new house at Dyram Park that served this very purpose. In this lecture, Louis Nelson, professor of architectural history and associate dean in the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia, will explore how the materials, maps, and exotica displayed in the rooms of Dyrham Park were critical agents in the making of an empire.

The symposium is offered in conjunction with the current special exhibition, The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1766–1820 (May 19–December 31, 2017), which considers the varied people, ideas, and objects that animated this important room in Harvard’s history.

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.

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

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