Virtual Lecture Series
Did you know the gin and tonic was not designed to ease the symptoms of malaria – but for quinine’s other medicinal properties? Or that the weight loss caused by tuberculosis influenced fashion trends and the very notion of beauty?
These are just a couple of the insights you’ll learn by attending our FREE April lecture series, Creativity from Crisis: Design in Times of Need. In this time of global pandemic, our guest speakers will look back at past public health crises and show how our culture responded with creative new ideas and practices.
Presented by the Newport Symposium, this series will involve two lectures every Thursday throughout April. All lectures will be live and presented via Zoom. With registration, lectures will also be provided via an online portal for 60 days of viewing following the series’ conclusion.
In order to follow CDC guidelines and ensure the safety of our visitors and staff, the Preservation Society will not be hosting the annual Newport Symposium in 2021. In its place, this virtual lineup of lectures has been organized to keep the spirit of the Newport Symposium alive until we are able to join together again, in person.
A History of Design Emergencies
Thursday, April 1
Alice Rawsthorn (Keynote), Design Critic and Author
One of design’s most important roles throughout history has been to help us to survive devastating crises, and to emerge from them with design innovations that replace the dysfunctional with new systems, spaces and objects. Alice Rawsthorn explores design’s role in past catastrophes - from lethal cholera and typhoid epidemics in the 19th century, to the world wars in the 20th century - and the periods of radical redesign and reconstruction that followed.
About Alice Rawsthorn
Alice Rawsthorn is an award-winning design critic and author, whose books include Hello World: Where Design Meets Life (Abrams Press, 2014) and, most recently, Design as an Attitude (JRP | Ringier,2018). Her weekly design column for The New York Times was syndicated worldwide for over a decade.
Lazaretto: How One City Used an Unpopular Quarantine Based on Disputed Science to Accommodate Immigrants and Prevent Epidemics
Thursday, April 1
David Barnes, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania
Built in 1799, Philadelphia’s Lazaretto Quarantine Station is the oldest surviving quarantine facility in the Western Hemisphere, and the seventh oldest in the world. The Lazaretto stands today as an almost forgotten monument to a little-known history. Dr. Barnes’s presentation suggests ways this 220-year-old relic speaks to our present moment.
About David Barnes
David Barnes, PhD, is Associate Professor of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of The Making of a Social Disease: Tuberculosis in Nineteenth-Century France (University of California Press, 1995) and The Great Stink of Paris and the Nineteenth-Century Struggle against Filth and Germs (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006).
Bodies that Work, Objects that Don’t: When Design, Disability, and Ableism Collide
Thursday, April 8
Katherine Ott, Curator, Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
Disability is a slippery category. Material culture provides an unfiltered record of how people imagine the ways bodies should work and the crisis that ensues when “normal” falls apart. In many ways, objects bring bodies into existence. Consequently, the ableist aesthetics of health and medicine are on today’s menu.
About Katherine Ott
Katherine Ott is a curator in the History of Medicine and Science. She uses the collections at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History to study how bodies become marked as different—by disease, disability, gender, race, and other cultural signals.
The Material Culture of Gout and Physical Disability in Early America
Thursday, April 8
Nicole Belolan, PhD, Public Historian in Residence at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities at Rutgers University-Camden
What objects did people use to live with and manage disabilities in early America? How did they interact with their environments and with other people -- family, friends, servants, and the enslaved -- in an era before people designed and marketed objects (or material culture) we might call assistive technology? Using the disabling disease of gout as a case study, Dr. Belolan discussed how people with disabilities manipulated, made, and remade objects to live with and manage disability in the past.
About Nicole Belolan
Nicole Belolan, PhD, is the Public Historian in Residence at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities at Rutgers University-Camden. At Rutgers, she directs a continuing education program in historic preservation. As part of her appointment, she is also the Co-Editor of The Public Historian and the Digital Media Editor for the National Council on Public History. She regularly lectures and gives workshops on disability history and best practices for small museums and historic sites. She is the Secretary of the Disability History Association.
When Art is Medicine: Ojibwe Women and the Jingle Dress Dance Tradition
Thursday, April 15
Brenda J. Child, PhD, Northrop Professor and former Chair of the Departments of American Studies and American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota Dr. Child’s talk considers the origins of a revolutionary healing tradition that emerged in the influenza pandemic of 1918-19 in the Great Lakes, one that is still widely practiced today.
About Brenda J. Child
Brenda J. Child, PhD, is Northrop Professor and former Chair of the Departments of American Studies and American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota. She is the author of several books in American Indian history including Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families, 1900-1940 (University of Nebraska Press, 1998), which won the North American Indian Prose Award; Holding Our World Together: Ojibwe Women and the Survival of Community (Penguin Random House, 2012); Indian Subjects: Hemispheric Perspectives on the History of Indigenous Education (with Brian Klopotek, School for Advanced Research Press, 2014). Her 2014 book My Grandfather’s Knocking Sticks: Ojibwe Family Life and Labor on the Reservation (Minnesota Historical Society Press) won the American Indian Book Award and the Best Book in Midwestern History. She is the author of a best-selling bilingual book for children, Bowwow Powwow (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2018). She was a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Museum of the American Indian-Smithsonian (2013-18) and was President of the Native American & Indigenous Studies Association (2017-18). She is a member of the board of the Minnesota Museum of American Art. Child was born on the Red Lake Ojibwe Reservation in northern Minnesota where she is part of a committee developing a new constitution for the 12,000-member nation.
Drop Dead Gorgeous: Fashioning Tuberculosis in early Victorian England
Thursday, April 15
PhD, Associate Professor of History at Furman University
A chasm often exists between the gruesome biological manifestations of diseases and the comparatively positive representations employed as part of strategies for coping with them. This was particularly true of consumption (tuberculosis) in the early 19th century. During this period, there was a tubercular moment in which cultural ideas about beauty increasingly intertwined with the disease process to allow for the ravages of consumption to be presented in an aesthetically pleasing light. As a result, tuberculosis was an affliction that was emulated both in beauty ideals and fashion. Dr. Day’s talk will explore the connections between fashion and tuberculosis between 1830-1850.
About Carolyn Day
Carolyn Day, PhD, received a Bachelor of Science in microbiology and a Bachelor of Arts in History from Louisiana State University before completing an MPhil in the History and Philosophy of Science and Medicine from Cambridge University and a PhD in British History from Tulane University. She is an Associate Professor of History at Furman University and the author of Consumptive Chic: a History of Beauty, Fashion and Disease (Bloomsbury, 2017). She is also a Georgian Paper Fellow and is currently working on two new books. The first for the University of Toronto Press entitled A Tale of Uncommon Parental Barbarity? The life and death of Ann Wainhouse and another book on Princess Amelia, the youngest daughter of King George III.
Disease and Décor: How Epidemics Shaped the Look of the Victorian Middle-Class Bedroom
Thursday, April 22
Sara J. Oshinsky, Independent Historian
After four significant cholera epidemics and having a nascent understanding of germs and disease transmission, mid-century Victorians embarked on a call for sanitary reform. The decoration of domestic interiors was one of many topics subjected to these new ideas of health and hygiene. In Ms. Oshinsky’s lecture, health-oriented bedroom decoration will be examined through the lens of design reformers and advice manuals that were marketed to the middle-class consumer. We will see how the bedroom transformed from what was perceived as an unhealthy incubator for disease to a healthy and pleasant environment as well as how these new ideas appeared in the United States.
About Sara J. Oshinsky
Sara J. Oshinsky was educated at New York University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Art History following a short career as a ballet dancer. After working for a few years in a New York City auction house, she furthered her studies and completed a Master’s degree in the History of Decorative Arts and Design from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum/Parsons School of Design (thesis: Aspects of a Consumer Revolution in 18th Century France: The Souvenir and Other Objets de Luxe). Ms. Oshinsky was an early contributor to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Helibrunn’s Timeline of Art History through four essays on 19th-century British design. In 2018, she participated in the Design History Society’s 17th annual Conference on Design and Displacement where she spoke on Erwin Thieberger: Holocaust Survivor, Immigrant Roofer, Accidental Artisan. Interestingly, 20 years ago in February 2001, Ms. Oshinsky presented her first academic paper at the Newport Symposium, The Art of Entertaining: 18th through 20th Centuries.
Sunlight, Space and Surfaces - Tracing the Development of the Healthy Home
Thursday, April 22
Julie Collins, B.Arch, PhD, Research Fellow and Curator at the Architecture Museum, University of South Australia, Adelaide
The domestic sanitation movement of the 19th century focussed much of its attention on houses, with scientific and hygienic living to be found on the agenda of both doctors and architects. Increasingly, women as household managers were seen as key, and exhibitions, model houses, books, and pamphlets were used to communicate with them. During this period, topics of discussion included sanitation, dust, air quality, and healthy bodies and minds. Architecturally these health concerns were addressed through various means including the design of plumbing, hygienic surfaces, ventilation, open-air living, and the layout of rooms. Dr. Collins’ presentation will examine the health-related rationales behind home design during the 19th and early 20th centuries, exploring the architecture and functioning of these so-called healthy houses.
About Julie Collins
Julie Collins, B.Arch, PhD, is Research Fellow and Curator at the Architecture Museum, University of South Australia in Adelaide. As an architectural historian Dr Collins’ researches aspects of built history including therapeutic places, architectural drawings, and the emergence of modernism. Her recent book The Architecture and Landscape of Health: A Historical Perspective on Therapeutic Places 1790-1940 (Routledge, 2020) examines buildings designed to treat or prevent disease in a time before pharmaceuticals and biomedicine emerged as first line treatments.
Just the Tonic: A Transatlantic Story of Sickness, Pleasure and the Gin & Tonic
Thursday, April 29, 1 p.m. EDT
Mark Nesbitt, Senior Research Leader at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and curator of Kew’s Economic Botany Collection
Kim Walker, PhD student at Kew and Royal Holloway, University of London
Did you know the gin and tonic was not designed to ease the symptoms of malaria – but for quinine’s other medicinal properties? As so often is the case, the histories of food and medicine are closely intertwined, and this talk draws on new research in both. This copiously illustrated talk will explore the global history of quinine, from its source in the cloud forests of the High Andes, to Europe and India, and its return to the Americas in the form of the gin and tonic. We will end the talk by demonstrating the perfect G&T and a non-alcoholic cocktail. (US registrants must be 21 or older to partake in the perfect G&T.)
Mark Nesbitt and Kim Walker
Mark Nesbitt is a Senior Research Leader at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and curator of Kew’s Economic Botany Collection. His research interests span human uses of plants from prehistory to the current day, and the repurposing of colonial collections to serve contemporary needs. Recent projects include research into Polynesian barkcloth with Pacific communities, a study of Kew’s global connections in the 19th century, and a collaboration with indigenous colleagues in the Rio Negro, Brazilian Amazon.
Kim Walker is a PhD student at Kew and Royal Holloway, University of London. She is a medical herbalist, forager, environmental educator, and author of three books, including the Handmade Apothecary: Healing Herbal Remedies (with Vicky Chown, Sterling Ethos, 2017). She is active on the student council of the Society for Economic Botany and the committee of the Herbal History Research Network. Mark and Kim are the co-authors of Just the Tonic: A Natural History of Tonic Water (University of Chicago, 2019), awarded the Fortnum & Mason Prize for best debut drinks book, 2020.
The Topography of Wellness: How Health and Disease Shaped the American Landscape
Thursday, April 29, 5:30 p.m. EDT
Sara Jensen Carr, Assistant Professor of Architecture and program director for the Master of Design in Sustainable Urban Environments program at Northeastern University
Our changing understanding of the reciprocal relationship between the environment and the body is reflected in the palimpsests of our urban landscape. Concepts of wellness, disease, and treatment have influenced urban design from the Industrial Revolution to today, and the results have ranged from successful to unintended incubations of the next generation of illnesses. As we face another rupture in the parallel histories of public health and the public realm, with the COVID-19 pandemic, examining our built environment through this lens is necessary to frame today’s most urgent questions.
About Sara Jensen Carr
Sara Jensen Carr is an architect, landscape architect and urban designer. Her work and research on the connections between urban landscape, human health, and social equity has been funded by the Mellon Foundation, Graham Foundation, and the National Science Foundation, among others. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Architecture and the program director for the Master of Design in Sustainable Urban Environments program at Northeastern University. The title of Ms. Carr’s presentation is the same as her forthcoming publication, due out in June 2021 by University of Virginia Press.