Constellations: reimagining celestial histories in the early Americas

Exhibition, winter 2020-2021

Here are the rules of the game: the library is the cosmos, its books are the stars, and we, as their readers, are celestial observers. At a distance, with instruments and conditions that are limited, our gazes travel, intermingle, pause, hesitate, and continue their trajectories, unraveling the unknown or perhaps encountering new outlines amongst the pages. The challenge is to place ourselves amongst a certain number of books, discover relationships, and create groups of objects – constellations – that speak to one another. These are the structural metaphors of the digital exhibition Constellations: Reimagining Celestial Histories in the Early Americas at the John Carter Brown Library, as we present to the public nearly 90 objects from its collections.

At first glance, the exhibition appears to have as its central theme the history of astronomy in the Americas. Or perhaps, even before that, is it not a history of the relationship of communities throughout the Americas with the heavens? Or better still, a history of the American skies? Choosing any of these as a central question – among many other possibilities – would imply distinct and not necessarily compatible propositions. Accepting incompatibilities, failing to resolve these tensions, and refusing to offer a particular response to a single dominant query is the vision that inspires Constellations and the histories that are recounted through it.

Our constellations are unexpected groupings, unstable and changing objects that testify to the distinct meanings that the heavens revealed for the Americas, from the Americas, within the Americas. We invite you to contemplate these skies with us. 

To see events and news associated with this exhibition, make sure to visit our special landing page with additional information. Also, stay tuned for the updates we will be making to the display currently on view: five additional constellations, together with a digital immersive experience, will be accessible through a dedicated website that we will launch on November 30.

For more informations :

OpenEdition suggests that you cite this post as follows:
evaudry (November 18, 2020). Constellations: reimagining celestial histories in the early Americas. Transregional Latin America Network. Retrieved July 21, 2024 from

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