Art and Nature

Art, Science, and Inquiry

Natural History

How have scientists used art to build and share their understanding of natural history?

Natural History and Art

Natural History: The scientific study of animals, plants, minerals, and fungi, with a focus on observation rather than experimentation.

Explore how different scientists have documented the natural world through art. What did scientists want to learn about plants and animals? What techniques did they use to guide their observations? What role did imagination play in their scientific processes?

Scientists study natural history to better understand the world we live in. By looking closely at the objects people created to express their knowledge of natural history, we can consider how they made sense of the natural world.

Spotlights

Bring It Together

Once the natural history artworks above have been explored, consider the following activities:

  • Adapt one of the objects into a new media format (movie, video game, meme, social media post, blog, website, etc...). How can the visual information be translated to the new format? How can the other elements of the object be translated to the new format?

  • Research the development of one of the spotlight topics (entomology, ecology, microscopy, botany) from the time the object was created to today. In what ways has our knowledge about the topic changed since the object was created? In what ways has our knowledge about the topic stayed the same?

  • Read the article “Why Science Needs Art” and compare the artworks in the article to the historical materials in this section.

  • Write a letter to one of the scientists.

    • Tell them what you think they did well when conveying scientific information in their work.
    • Tell them what you think they could do to improve their artistic representation of scientific ideas.
    • Ask them questions. What do you wonder about their artistic process? What do you wonder about their scientific process? What do you wonder about their finished work?
  • Create an artwork to convey your own scientific understanding of the natural world.