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Creativity and the construction of fossils: 'The artist's piece is already in the stone'

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In the twenty-first century, fossil preparation, or the process of removing rock from fossils, is generally considered a technical procedure. However, the people who do this work – fossil preparators – often describe it in terms of creativity and aesthetics. They discuss creative aspects of fossil preparation in three main categories: art training as valuable for learning skills relevant to preparing fossils, concerns for the aesthetics of a prepared fossil, and the necessity of ‘creative problem-solving’ and innovation when preparing fossils. Based on data from interviews and participant observation, I analyze the roles that preparators ascribe to creativity and art in their work, and consider why preparators might present their ‘technical’ work as creative.

This talk is part of the Cabinet of Natural History series.

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