The Research Project

Taylor White Research Project, September 2018 to June 2020

The Taylor White Research project received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s (SSHRC) Insights Development Grant Program in 2018.

The Project’s overall objective is to make the Taylor White Collection accessible as a resource for the study of the development of natural history in the Enlightenment.

By situating Taylor White and his activities within the context of the Enlightenment taxonomic project, the Project also seeks

  • to explore the creation and use of personal collections during a period when one of the Enlightenment’s great collecting projects – that of Sir Hans Sloane and the British Museum – also takes shape.
  • To explore the role of artists and patrons in the creation of the scientific image, and
  • To understand how a legacy collection contributes to the study of biosystematics.

Making the Collection Accessible

McGill University Library has digitized all drawings and manuscript notes, which are available through McGill University Archives here.

In addition, the research group has documented the 938 works and enriched the archive by

  • Identifying the artists and attributing all works
  • Transcribing all inscriptions on the paintings, and translating from the Latin into English where required
  • Transcribing all manuscript notes, and translating from the Latin into English
  • Identifying each specimen according to modern taxonomic nomenclature and adding information on historic and contemporary distribution

Exploring Taylor White’s Legacy

In order to situate Taylor White within the historic context, the group has undertaken research into the relationship between patron and natural history artist in the eighteenth century; the work of the “amateur” naturalist and development of scientific classification; the practice of note-taking; the social and cultural context of naturalists and the Royal Society; the process of specimen acquisition, and mid-eighteenth century exchange networks of collectors and naturalists; the circulation of information and the use of  “copies” by artists and naturalists; the preparation of text and image for publication. Close reading of the collection itself has revealed new information on the role of the Royal Navy and native collectors in providing specimens; the impact of the slave trade on both specimen acquisition and identification; range and distribution of now extinct or extirpated species.

Taylor White Project Group

Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill Library

Dr Victoria Dickenson, Adjunct Professor, Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill (Principal Investigator)

Lauren Williams, Blacker Wood Librarian, Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill

Jennifer Garland, Liaison Librarian, Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill

Redpath Museum, McGill University

Dr David Green, Professor, Biology, and former Director Redpath Museum, McGill

Dr Virginie Millien, Assistant Professor, Curator of Zoology & Palaeontology, Redpath Museum, McGill

Research Team

Dr Victoria Dickenson, McGill University

Lauren Williams, McGill University

Robert Montgomerie, Queens University

McGill Student Research Assistants

Hayley Eaves

Emilienne Greenfield

Vida Javidi

Céline Stantina

Emily Zinger

Undergraduate Project Team

Emily Brown

Audrey Gray

Emily Young With the assistance of research assistant Jessica Ford

Our thanks to Mehmood Khalid and the rest of McGill’s Digital Initiatives team for their support in the creation of this website.