If I had time I could write a great deal more to you, but as the ship sails this evening I dare not stay any longer.
Mary Symonds to her sister Hester "Hetty" Symonds James, 1807

Gwillim Project
Newsletter Issue 15

Welcome to the fifteenth issue of the Gwillim Project's newsletter, marking June. This last newsletter features news, events, and closing remarks.
News and Events
Hidden Hands in Colonial Natural Histories, a three-year partnership (2022-2025) recently received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). The project focuses on recovering the intellectual and material work of Indigenous, local, and subaltern collectors, guides, and artists, which is often hidden or overlooked in colonial natural history collections. It will bring together a network of scholars in natural history, history of science, art history, environmental history and cultural geography with curators, archivists and librarians to consider the practical challenges of researching, reinterpreting, and redisplaying natural history collections.    

This project employs a series of case studies of materials held in McGill University's museums and libraries (the Redpath Museum, the McGill University Herbarium and the Blacker Wood Collections at McGill University Library) to explore how to recover the work, voices, and motivations of the people associated with the making and assembling of these collections. The collections provide insights into three geographical spaces -- Canada, the Caribbean (specifically Haiti), and South Asia (India and Sri Lanka) -- between the late 18th and early 19th centuries. 

We will build on the lessons learned in the Gwillim Project about how close, interdisciplinary study of colonial materials by a network of partners can reveal untold stories about the making of natural history collections. In the Gwillim Project, we used one archive to respond to several different questions; in this project we pose one question -- how to recover the hidden hands that made natural history? -- to several collections, using a range of approaches. We continue the work of rediscovering women's voices and enquiring into what can be learned about historical environments through natural history collections.
Anna Winterbottom's entry on Elizabeth Gwillim can now be read in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography here (institutional login required). The entry places Gwillim within the context of her family and focuses on her work as a painter, ornithologist, and naturalist. An important event for the Gwillim Project, it is also significant for the ODNB, as only 11% of their entries feature women.
The British library site published a blog post Birds, Landscapes, and Letters by Anna Winterbottom. Detailing Elizabeth Gwillim's life and work, the piece establishes a framework for her life in Madras, including her accomplishments in painting and interest in natural and cultural history. The piece establishes the historical significance of the archives, connecting them across continents and disciplines.
The website is being readied for archival with updates, reorganization, and the addition of case studies. Anna Winterbottom added two pieces, Behind the Scenes, discusses the colonial violence and dissent witnessed by the Gwillim's and recorded in their letters home, and "Seasoning to the Climate", an analysis of attitudes and understanding of health, especially as it relates to weather and temperature. Another two case studies from Research Assistants Ciel Haviland on the transportation of plants and Carleigh Nicholls about the environment and weather, are forthcoming. Please send a link to friends and colleagues to share the culmination of this aspect of the project!
As a 2022 Awardee, Victoria Dickenson will discuss Elizabeth Gwillim at the ICOM Canada International Achievement Award at 1 – 2 pm EST on June 22, 2022. To join the Zoom event, follow this link:
The second Bibliotheca Naturae Student Symposium is scheduled for September 15, 2022, time and list of speakers to be announced.  This is an opportunity to hear from the Gwillim Project Research Assistants and Associates at McGill about the research they undertook during their work on the Project. This will be a hybrid event available on Zoom, with presentations online and at Rare Books and Special Collections at McGill. 

Watch on November 30, 2022 for the virtual launch of the Digital Museums of Canada website featuring speakers from DakshinaChitra Museum and others who contributed to the website. More information to come. 
The MacLennan Library lobby at McGill is hosting a display of Elizabeth Gwillim's ornithological paintings in over the summer. The enlarged copies of her works are on display along with information on her life and the project. The library is currently open to all visitors, if you would like to see it in person.
The South Asia Collection Museum in Norwich, England, is hosting A Different Idea of India. The exhibition displays 78 watercolors by Mary Symonds and Elizabeth Gwillim for the first time. The landscapes tell the story of their journey, their experience and their lives as artists.
A closing symposium was held online for the network members of the Gwillim Project in May 2022. The network members celebrated the multidisciplinary efforts to understand the world of the Gwillims and 1800s Madras, India. The members of the Gwillim Project produced articles, conferences, symposiums, and exhibits, but the sustained interest marks one of its great successes, as members continue to research and publish on the sisters.
The Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) hosted a symposium on April 30, 2022, called Natural History, Women’s Agency and Conserving Bio-Diversity. Organized and hosted by John Lourdusamy, the event featured six talks and an exhibition curated by Geetha Hudson, Dakshina Chitra Museum. Find more information about this and other past events here.
Closing Remarks
We warmly thank all members of the network for their contributions. We learnt a lot from you and look forward to staying in touch: email Anna Winterbottom at anna.winterbottom[at], Victoria Dickenson at victoria.j.dickenson[at], or contact the whole network at gwillimproject_Group[at] 

We look forward to welcoming you back at the book launch in 2024!
(Exact date to be determined)
Header Image: Red Munia (Amandava amandava) CA RBD Gwillim-1-121

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McGill Library, Rare Books and Special Collections

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