(Photo: William Warmus)
Case Study: The Blaschkas’ Glass Marine Models
Leopold Blaschka (1822-1895) and his son Rudolf (1857-1939), created important scientific models made of glass for research institutions worldwide, including Europe, the United States, Japan, Australia, and India. The Blaschkas described themselves as “natural history artisans.” They corresponded with Ernest Haeckel (1834-1819), who loaned them scientific drawings and atlases, including some of his own work. Cornell University holds an extensive collection of more than 500 models, which are divided between the University’s biology and art collections. My research investigated the nature and logic of this division and the epistemological underpinnings of how art and biology groups gave the models meaning. In particular, this research exposed the way that Haeckel’s aesthetics found its way into the Blaschkas’ models and was accepted as the correct style for scientific models for a time. I analyzed the way the Blaschkas and Cornell art and biology groups talked about the work as both art and science and the ways they positioned themselves and their models.