Keynote lecture: Cultural Bias of (Digitized) Natural History Collections

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


Natural history museums and herbaria in the global North owe much of their authority to plants, animals and minerals collected in the global South. This unequal distribution of the planet’s natural heritage is the historical result of intimate and often invisible linkages between natural history repositories and evolving schemes of colonial exploitation, violence, and commerce. However, in institutional discussions about future research on natural history collections the colonial provenance of such collections is not always acknowledged. This is truly astonishing, since in particular large-scale digitization of specimen collections and accompanying archival holdings offer humanities researchers a wealth of new source material. This type of source material allows us to deepen our understanding of the daily practices and polycentric networks of collecting and natural historical knowledge production in former colonial areas. Moreover, it will allow for studies on how and with what epistemological implications natural objects have traveled across the globe. By acknowledging the geographical imbalance of natural historical collections and natural historical collections in the Global North, this lecture examines how digital humanists can help to support historical inquiries into the colonial roots of our present-day understanding of nature and its diversity.
Period3 Jun 2022
Event title8th Digital Humanities Benelux Conference 2022
Event typeConference
Conference number8
LocationEsch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • digital humanities
  • natural history collections
  • biodiversity heritage collections