Elaine Charwat

Contact details: elaine.charwat@oum.ox.ac.uk

Research summary

In collaboration with UCL, Elaine’s AHRC-funded doctoral project will look at how models and casts in natural history and the natural sciences are highly contextual “knowledge objects” - carriers and catalysts of knowledge, but also of identities, relationships and status. Being often perceived as purely utilitarian, they pose important questions about authenticity, objectivity and the objectification of nature.
The main focus will be on rediscovering and recording the models and casts at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, and on (re-)establishing their contexts, especially by comparing them with their counterparts in university collections in Germany (where many of the models were produced).


Elaine’s background is in Special Collections, with emphasis on a natural history context. She was awarded an AHRC scholarship to undertake her MSc in Information Studies at (now) Leeds Beckett University. Her thesis focussed on cataloguing the visual aspects of medieval manuscripts. She has worked as Special Collections Librarian at University College Cork (Ireland) and at the Linnean Society of London, where she was Deputy Librarian and Collections Manager - working with some of the most important natural history collections in the history of science. She was elected a Fellow of the Linnean Society (FLS) in 2016.