Alexandria Mitchem

Alexandria Mitchem

Friends of the MCEAS FellowPhD Candidate, Columbia University

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"Everything in the universe in its own nature”: the Archaeology of 19th century Natural History at Bartram’s Garden 

My dissertation studies the connections between botanical science, Natural History, and ecological change in late 18th and early 19th century Philadelphia. Using historical and archaeological research, I examine Bartram’s Garden, the most prominent botanical garden in North America during this time period. My project works to understand how humans, plants, and animals interacted in and moved through the garden as a physical and conceptual space. I pay attention to the way knowledge and conceptions of both the garden and the broader natural world as places were formed in the context of a local ecology--one including foraging animals, weeds from nearby fields, and plants that have naturalized themselves to new environments outside the garden walls. My study makes contributions to archaeological, historical, and ecological scholarship by considering how data generated by humans, plants, and animals documents the history of Bartram’s Garden. Together, these sources reveal multiple facets of the garden– a lens necessary for understanding the broader production of Western scientific epistemologies of the natural world.