My Work

I am a writer, artist, historian, and naturalist, as well as the Collections Coordinator for a small natural history collection at Randolph College. In the course of my career I have worked as an educator, archaeologist, historic preservation consultant, and art instructor. I currently teach two collections-based courses in the Museum and Heritage Studies program at Randolph College, and work with student interns on a variety of research and conservation projects each semester. I focus on issues surrounding natural history and anthropology collections, and am passionate about preserving artifacts of human culture and scientific inquiry as vital documents of the living, evolving world. My research therefore explores the liminality and shared spaces between the “natural” and “human” worlds, and the distinctions and intersections between natural history and anthropology as co-evolving academic disciplines. “Multispecies ethnography” is an emerging field which describes these interests very well.

In 2004 I commenced research for a monograph on the life and work of scientific illustrator Sydney Parkinson (1745-1771), for which I am now writing the manuscript. Although Parkinson began as a natural history painter, his interests broadened over the course of the Endeavour voyage (1768-1771) as he developed remarkable skills in linguistics as well as the then-undefined fields of cultural anthropology and ethnobotany. Especially noteworthy is the often-overlooked artistic and linguistic collaboration between Parkinson and Tupaia, a Tahitian priest and navigator who joined the Endeavour expedition in 1769. For more information about my research and writing relating to Sydney Parkinson, please visit my research blog: https://parkinsonsendeavour.wordpress.com/ .

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or related interests at: esmith@randolphcollege.edu.