Faith in Formaldehyde: Conversion in the Oldest Cabinet of Curiosity in the Philippines

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Tuesday, November 26th, 2019

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Tuesday, November 26, 20193:00PM - 5:00PM208N, North House, 1 Devonshire Place
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Description

This paper examines the oldest existing museum in the Philippines, the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Museum of Arts and Sciences, as a cabinet of curiosity and a catalyst of conversion. By Spanish royal decree, its early collection acquired through colonial expeditions, complex evangelical networks, and commercial expositions formed the classroom materials for the Natural History course taught by Dominican friars. By 1877, the fauna, flora, and mineral—from the minute to the monumental, from the ordinary to the odd—were inventoried in a three-volume catalogue raisonné. Its collection has since elicited a sense of wonder in nature’s perfection and diversity. Within the broader philosophical contexts of natural and revealed theology and the revival of Thomism after Charles Darwin’s publication of his theory of evolution through natural selection, the museum’s pursuit of scientific knowledge masked its pursuit of sacred truth, engendering an epiphany through the embalmed and serving the divine through the drama of its dioramas. Operating as a mode of signification and translation of the Word, the museum became a biblical exegesis of the origin of species to archive God, preserving faith in formaldehyde as a means of maintaining the authority of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines.

Pearlie Rose S. Baluyut received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in Art History from the University of California, Los Angeles. A two-time Fulbright U.S. Scholar (Student/Faculty Grant), a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellow, and a Faculty Learning Community Participant through the NEH Humanities Initiative Grant, she is the co-editor of Confrontations, Crossings, and Convergence: Photographs of the Philippines and the United States, 1898-1998 (1998) and author of Institutions and Icons of Patronage: Arts and Culture in the Philippines during the Marcos Years, 1965-1986 (2012). Besides teaching art history and museum studies at several institutions in the United States, France, and the Philippines, she also served as Advisor for the Arts at the National Museum of the Philippines before her appointment as Project Manager/Curator of the Philippines at the Venice Biennale by the Department of Foreign Affairs. Currently, Baluyut is Assistant Professor of Art History in the Art Department and Affiliate Faculty in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Oneonta and Chair of the College Art Association’s International Committee.


Speakers

Pearlie Rose S. Baluyut
Speaker
Assistant Professor of Art History; Affiliate Faculty in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department, State University of New York (SUNY), Oneonta

Nhung Tuyet Tran
Chair
Associate Professor of History, University of Toronto


Main Sponsor

Asian Institute

Sponsors

Centre for Southeast Asian Studies


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