The SHNH site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our privacy policy.


Society for the History of Natural History


Trading Nature. Joint Meeting of SHNH & Geological Curators Group in York, 4-5 June 2019

Trading Nature. Joint Meeting of SHNH & Geological Curators Group in York, 4-5 June 2019

June 4, 2019 08:45am - June 5, 2019 05:00pm

This two day international meeting held in association with the Geological Curators’ Group will examine the role of agents, dealers and commercial enterprises in the history of natural history. The meeting will be held in the King's Manor, a complex of medieval buildings in the centre of York. Directions to King's Manor, University of York. Download map.

A great deal has been recorded about those collecting and studying the natural world over the past 400 years. Much less is known about those who helped supply them. Often underplayed and viewed as peripheral and sometimes even shady figures, the endeavours, contributions and motivations of these ‘middle-men and women’ are often overlooked. The boundaries and realities of their everyday activities are frequently blurred and sometimes misunderstood. This meeting aims to shed new light on the lives, work and impact of these often undervalued participants and contributors in the development of collections and research in the natural sciences.

The meeting will aim to explore:

  • The lives and roles of traders and dealers in natural history collecting networks.
  • The contributions of agents, dealers and commercial enterprises to the development of, and understanding in, the natural sciences.
  • The role of sale rooms and auction houses and other types of businesses as part of the culture of collecting.
  • The supply of natural history material of all kinds to private collectors, museums and universities.
  • The historical trade in specimens (living and non-living), around the world.
  • Trade networks and routes, and the ethics of trade over the past 400 years.
  • The role of colonialism, and those involved, in the establishment and contribution to international trade.
  • The environmental and social impact of trade, be it political, economic, cultural, or environmental.

Register for Conference

 Download Programme

Download Abstracts


Presentations  will take place at the King’s Manor, University of York, 0n Tuesday 4th June and the morning of Wednesday 5th June. The conference dinner will take place on the evening of Tuesday 4th June. The SHNH AGM will be held after lunch on Wednesday 5th June. The afternoon tour on Wednesday 5th June will be to behind-the-scenes of the Yorkshire Museum store, approximately 20 minutes from the city centre. Alternatively, delegates can visit the displays at the Yorkshire Museum or other cultural attractions or venues in the city centre.

Tuesday 4th June

8.45-9.10 Registration at The King’s Manor
9.10-9.15 Welcome and announcements


  • Simon Ville, University of Wollongong, Australia, The exchange, finance and logistics of the natural history trade in the nineteenth century
  • Vanessa Finney, Australian Museum, Sydney, Australia, Collection building at the Australian Museum, 1860-1890
  • Deidre Coleman, University of Melbourne, Australia, Frederick Parkhurst Dodd: ‘Butterfly man of Kuranda’, North Queensland in mid-nineteenth-century entomology
10.30-11.00 Tea/coffee
  • Leore Joanne Green, University of Cambridge, Emily Mary Bowdler Sharpe’s entomological work and networks
  • Matt Wale, ‘Infinite Bartering’: the controversy of specimen exchange
  • Rachel Jennings, Powell-Cotton Museum, Fred Merfield and the Powell-Cotton Museum: a trading partnership
  • Elle Larsson, King’s College London and the Natural History Museum, ‘’The animals went in four by four’’: collection-building at Rothschild’s Zoological Museum, Tring
  • Catarina Madruga, University of Lisbon, Between barter economy and gift economy: the intermediary role of traders of zoological specimens in the correspondence of Barbosa du Bocage
13.05-14.00 Lunch and poster viewing
13.30-14.00 SHNH AGM 


  • Susan Newell, University of Leeds and Oxford University Museum of Natural History, Building a teaching collection for Oxford: William Buckland’s sourcing of specimens and visual materials, c. 1815-1845
  • Dean Lomax, University of Manchester, Mary Anning – palaeontologist extraordinaire
  • Peter Davidson, National Museum of Scotland, A Fair Deal: A short study on the role of dealers in the history of mineralogy
  • Further questions and announcements
15.15-15.45  Tea/coffee



  • Emma Bernard, Natural History Museum, The foundations of the fossil fish collection at the Natural History Museum, London and the ethics of modern collecting
  • John Faithfull, The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, Artisanal and small-scale mining, geological specimens, and the role of specimen preservation in improving lives
  • Mike Howgate, Selling Prehistory – the Vernon Edwards experience
19.00-21.30      Conference dinner (Pre-booked diners only).
(2 courses – shared starters and main course, service included, excludes drinks)

Wednesday 5th June

9.00-9.20 Registration at The King’s Manor
9.20-9.30 Welcome and announcements
  • Helen Cowie, University of York, Animals wholesale and retail: exotic animal dealers in 19th-century Britain
  • Mareike Vennen, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, “The Aquarium Complex: trading living marine animals, 1850-1910”
  • Paolo Viscardi, Niamh Sullivan1 and Emmanuel G. Reynaud1, National Museum of Ireland; University College Dublin1, The Blaschka business network
10.45-11.15   Tea/coffee



  • Zoe Varley, P. Evans1 & Douglas Russell, Natural History Museum & Army Museums Ogilby Trust1, The formation & dispersal of 19th century natural history specimens collected by Captain C. C. Abbott in the Falkland Islands
  • Harriet Wood & Graham Oliver, National Museum Wales, Trading in conchology: the blurred distinction between dealer, collector, conchologist
  • Geraldine Reid, National Museums Liverpool, Diatom mounters: trade in the microscopic world
  • Mike Buttolph, University College London, The contributions of commercial breeders to early genetics
  • Further questions and formal close of meeting
13.00-14.00    Lunch and Poster viewing
  • Andreia Salvador, Natural History Museum, Stevens’ Auction Rooms: the shell sales
  • Emma Nicholls, Nicole Phillips1, Annmarie Fearing1, Kelcee Smith2, Horniman Museum and Gardens, University of Southern Mississippi1, Louisiana State University2, What can museum specimens tell us about the historical trade in sawfish?
14.00-16.30 Collections tours and visits for those participating
Tours of the Yorkshire Museum store will take place after lunch.  The store is approximately 20 minutes by car or bus from the city centre. Self-led visits can also be made to Yorkshire Museum to view the recently opened exhibition Yorkshire’s Jurassic World. Other options to be confirmed.


To register please visit The deadline for registration is Wednesday 15th May. Participants can register for one or two days.  The cost of the conference dinner will be additional.

The cost for members of SHNH, GCG  and other affiliated organisations* 
  • £80 per person for two days, £45 for one day
  • £60 for student members for two days, £35 for one day.
    * include spouses/partners of members and of affiliated organisations e.g. NatSCA & BSHS
The cost for non-members (to include refreshment breaks and lunch)
  • £95 for two days, £50 for one day
The cost for speakers
  • £40 for 2 days, £20 for one day (half the members rate).

Participants are encouraged to book their own accommodation. Some options are available below.

Any questions or queries, please contact SHNH Meetings Secretary Jo Hatton (

Accommodation in York

There is a wide variety of accommodation available in York. Visit or for a wider range. Most City Centre accommodation is within a 20 minute walk of the meeting venue. Please note: York is a busy city, particularly in the summer. We therefore recommend that you reserve your accommodation as soon as possible.

Some options closest to The King’s Manor and the Yorkshire Museum include:

Drivers should remember to check the availability of parking as this can be in short supply.



Images: Mary Anning (1799-1847), a page from a Schluter and Mass catalogue (German Natural History dealers), and Mary Anning’s house and shop in Lyme Regis from where she first sold fossils.