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Historical Biology Vol. 20, No. 1, March 2008, 1–10

Crystal creatures: context for the Dublin Blaschka Congress Julia D. Sigwarta,b* a

School of Biology and Environmental Science, University College Dublin, Ireland; bNational Museum of Ireland – Natural History, Dublin, Ireland The ‘Dublin Blaschka Congress’ was conceived as a gathering to bring together the diverse scholarly disciplines that are uniquely, if eccentrically, joined in the study of scientific glass models. Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka are best known for the ‘Glass Flowers’ of Harvard but in the nineteenth century they also invented techniques to sculpt anatomically accurate marine invertebrates in glass. In the course of preparing the Congress and a coordinated temporary exhibition, much new information was uncovered about the collections of Blaschka objects in Ireland, including a total of nearly 800 surviving models. The history of the artists shows a clever business model that was designed to tap a niche market in the contemporary fascination with natural history, and improved through the course of several decades with input from clients and their own passion for understanding their biological subjects. From a modern perspective, a single Blaschka glass model of a marine invertebrate can embody biology, the history of science, craftsmanship, glass chemistry, aesthetics and art. This ability to cross interdisciplinary bridges is a singular strength of the Blaschka works, and is evident in the published proceedings of the Congress. Keywords: history of science; invertebrates; glass model; Irish science

Introduction – Dublin Blaschka Congress Leopold (1822–1895) and Rudolf (1857–1939) Blaschka were talented glass artists and unlikely champions of biological sciences (Figure 1). The father and son possessed an artistic talent and business acumen to fill a niche for the contemporary boom natural history museums, supplying original glass replicas of hundreds of species of marine invertebrates. All their pieces were made by assembling glass crafted by flameworking, melting and bending glass with hand tools (Figure 2). Their prolific two-generation career produced exquisite sculptures of marine life and the famous ‘glass flowers’ of Harvard University. Today, the enduring fascination with their work resonates with artists and scientists alike. In capturing the ephemeral nature of soft-bodied invertebrates, developmental series, and the complex structures of many plants, the Blaschkas accidentally succeeded in preserving and making solid what even the fossil record finds to be impossible. In 2006, University College Dublin (UCD) and the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History (NMINH) jointly hosted the first scholarly meeting on the life and works of the Blaschkas: the Dublin Blaschka Congress. The significant collection of Blaschka models held by the NMINH inspired the focus to attract international scholars to share their research and knowledge on the history, art, and science of Blaschka

*Corresponding author. Email: [email protected] ISSN 0891-2963 print/ISSN 1029-2381 online q 2008 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10.1080/08912960701677291

works. Blaschka models are held in more than 50 institutions worldwide, although holdings have not been confirmed for many (see for a provisional list). At the Dublin Blaschka Congress, participants from across Europe and North America met for three days in Dublin to share talks, posters, and extensive discussion. To coincide with the Dublin Blaschka Congress, the author (JDS) curated a temporary exhibit in NMINH, Crystal Creatures, which examined more than 35 Blaschka models next to their counterparts from nature. Crystal Creatures focussed on six main animal representations, presenting several examples of each Blaschka models, next to preserved specimens of the same animal species. The models were drawn from the five Irish collections of Blaschka models, enabling the exhibit to present up to five different examples, or editions, of each model. All natural history museums, including the NMINH, are essentially scientific institutions, and this instils certain biases on the perception, care, and finally exhibition of objects like Blaschka models. Several thousand models of Blaschka animals (as well as the over 4300 botanical models in the Harvard Museum of Natural History) are known to survive, worldwide, and the vast majority are in the care of natural history museums and scientific departments of universities. Blaschka works fall into the curious position of

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Figure 1.

Leopold (left) and Rudolf (right) Blaschka. Images courtesy of the Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, USA.

effectively being art objects housed in scientific collections, and in many ways do not fit in the conventional ‘pigeonholes’ we use to define and segregate our disciplines (Petro and Hudson 2002). One goal of the Dublin Blaschka Congress was to bring together the disparate perspectives that are common to current discussion of the Blaschkas and their works. Not only are they fascinating objects in their own right, but they may serve as the best possible tool to examine the

Figure 2. Group of tools belonging to Rudolf and/or Leopold Blaschka. Collection of The Corning Museum of Glass, Corning, USA. Image courtesy of the Corning Museum of Glass.

overlap – and frequent misunderstanding – between the fields of ‘Art’ and ‘Science’ as we perceive them today.

Models in Ireland There are approximately 800 surviving Blaschka glass models in Irish collections. All of the surviving collections were represented in the Crystal Creatures exhibit (Table 1). The NMINH collection is by far the largest, including more than 500 pieces, of which over 300 have been part of the museum’s display collection. The four universities that also hold Blaschka models all bought their pieces independently in the same period, as is clear from the Blaschkas’ sales records (e.g. Blaschka 1882). Handwritten notes in the accession registers in the archives of the NMINH show that individual models were traded or loaned from NMINH to universities in Dublin and Belfast (NMINH 1882, 1886). The individual pieces involved have not been identified, although Trinity College Dublin and UCD both have considerable collections in their own right. There are no known surviving Blaschka models in either Queen’s University Belfast or the Ulster Museum. The four Irish universities that hold Blaschka models historically had, and largely still maintain teaching collections of zoological specimens, which continue to be used for practical demonstrations in teaching anatomy to university science students. In fact, Blaschka models

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Table 1. Blaschka pieces in collections in Ireland. Historical names of institutions as noted are from the period when Blaschka models were originally acquired. The first purchase for University College Cork is only known to be prior to December 1880 when distribution for Britain and Ireland was taken over by R. Damon. All dates are based on sales records and correspondence archived in the Rakow Research Library, Corning Musuem of Glass. No models are known to survive in Queen’s University Belfast. Approximate number of Blaschka models


Historical name

University College Dublin

Royal College of Science, Dublin Queen’s College Cork Queen’s College Galway Trinity College Dublin Science and Art Museum, Dublin

University College Cork National University of Ireland, Galway Trinity College Dublin National Museum of Ireland – Natural History Division Queen’s University Belfast

were regularly used in teaching invertebrate zoology in UCD until the early twenty-first century, and are still used occasionally in several of the Irish universities. This is the most recent known example worldwide of Blaschka models still in use for their original purpose – teaching biology. The other most recently documented example of this is in the Humboldt University, Berlin, where Blaschka models were used as teaching aids in 1995 (H. Reiling, personal communication; see Hackethal 2008). Blaschka models still fulfil their original purpose in another way in the display collections of the NMINH. The NMINH galleries are maintained in their original ‘cabinet’ style display, and the glass models are inserted as appropriate in the taxonomic arrangement of the exhibit. The species represented by Blaschka models serve to ‘complete’ the biodiversity on display, when those animals would be too distorted or simply too small to be visually appealing as preserved specimens, and to improve the visual presentation of animals that may be hard to interpret (Figure 3).

Historical context The NMINH, which is housed in a building constructed and opened to the public in 1857, is an early product of the nineteenth century ‘Museum Movement’ (SheetsPyenson 1988). It is one of a very few museums in the world which preserves the original style of the public displays. In the eighteenth century, fashionable collections of curiosities were maintained by individuals for private pleasure. In the scientific community, this paralleled a new ambition of classifying and naming all animal and plant species, exemplified by the enduring work of Carolus Linnaeus (Farber 2000). The work of Linnaeus and his contemporaries focussed on describing a system to help make sense of the extensive worldwide biodiversity (Stevens 2002). In the nineteenth century, systematics was boosted by new understanding of

60 45 130 30 530 [unknown]

Dates purchased 1885 ca. 1880, 1882 1886, 1889 1882, 1885 1878, 1882, 1886, 1888 1881

evolutionary process through the work of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace. Taxonomy and systematics is still, in the twenty-first century, completely dependent on reference collections of biological specimens, so it is natural that the early popularity of this type of science is wedded to the creation of museums. In the nineteenth century, the growing scientific trend of systematics, coupled with an increasing popular fascination with the natural world (among a newly affluent middle class), paved the way for founding public natural history museums. Taxonomists were responsible for the genesis of this ‘Museum Movement,’ as museums were founded all over the world in the late 1800s (Sheets-Pyenson 1988). Simultaneously, the British ‘Aquarium Craze’ of the late 1850s was popularised by scientists such as Philip Henry Gosse (Gosse 1856; Barber 1980). This meant an increasing number of non-scientists became interested in the biology and habitats of seashore animals, particularly the hardy anemones, as they attempted to maintain them in home aquaria. Gosse (1860) illustrations of British anemones were used as design templates for Leopold Blaschka’s earliest model animals (Figure 4). Natural history objects, including Blaschka models, were popular home decorations, continuing the trend for private ‘cabinets of curiosities’. Into the 1800s, collections of biological specimens returned to Europe from an increasing number and variety of exploring expeditions to other continents to tantalise and astonish. These exploring expeditions were increasingly organised by public bodies with a deliberate intent to collect specimen objects and preserve them in museums at home. The philosophy of systematics and classification dictated that public displays should attempt to show ‘one of everything’. Museum specimens (and models) offer a close look at animals that are inaccessible in the wild. Examples of exotic marine invertebrates (from home and abroad), popularised through aquaria, may have been particular favourites. This is where the Blaschkas found their niche.

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Figure 3. Left, Octopus (preserved in alcohol) Octopus macropus, NMINH 1882.603.3 from Naples, Italy. Right, Blaschka glass model of the Octopus Octopus macropus [Nr. 572] NMINH 1886.919.1, here pictured ‘upside down’ for comparison with the preserved specimen. Images courtesy of National Museum of Ireland.

Blaschkas as businessmen Much that is known about the Blaschka family business comes not from their surviving works, but from their meticulous and detailed business records as well as catalogues supplied through their sales agents in English and German. The catalogue numbers assigned in the sales catalogues are an invaluable tool for tracing acquisition (and changes in nomenclature) for models in a certain collection. (Catalogue numbers are noted for NMINH specimens in square brackets, along with the species name if it was different at the time of sale.) The Rakow Research Library of The Corning Museum of Glass (Corning, NY, USA) holds the accounts books, notebooks containing drafts of business letters, and scientific and design notes made by Blaschkas. Other archive materials specific to the ‘glass flowers’ are held by Harvard University. The early accounts records, from the 1860s onward show which specific pieces were

purchased by a buyer, even when (such as with the Irish universities’ collections) the institution’s own purchase records do not survive (see e.g. Dyer 2008). Of particular interest are the business letters; the drafts often show extensive corrections and revisions before a final, tactfully worded letter was sent to colleagues, while the draft was maintained in the Blaschkas’ personal archive. The scientific notes and drawings are often artistic pieces in their own right, and have recently been brought together in a temporary exhibit at the Corning Museum of Glass (Rossi-Wilcox and Whitehouse 2007). The Blaschka family glass business spanned more than 300 years and approximately nine generations, with connections in Venice, Bohemia (in an area now in the Czech Republic) and Germany. Leopold and Rudolf continued to make a variety of decorative and functional glass products, including glass eyes (for visually

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Figure 4. Left, P.H. Gosse, Actinologia Brittanica, plate 5. The small anemone at bottom right is Anthea cereus Gosse. Right, Blaschka glass model of ‘Anthea cereus’ based on Gosse’s illustration, collection of Oxford University, acquired 1867. Photograph by M. Nowak-Kemp, courtesy of Oxford University Museum of National History.

impaired people and for taxidermists’ animals) and laboratory glassware into the 1870s (Blaschka 1882). The famous biological models became their sole output only in 1886, when they accepted an exclusive contract with Harvard University to construct the Ware collection of botanical models. Leopold’s first models of anemones were displayed in 1863 in the Dresden Natural History Museum. (The model shown in Figure 4 is one of the oldest surviving examples of a Blaschka anemone.) This exhibition prompted orders from other museums and universities for similar models. The next year, in 1864, Leopold began experimentally producing other marine invertebrates, particularly jellyfish (R. Blaschka 1896). As the business became established, the majority of Blaschka models were sold though several agents, which advertised natural history products to universities and museums. The two most important agents to the Blaschka business appear to have been Henry Augustus Ward in North American (see Dyer 2008) and Robert Damon in Great Britain and Ireland. From ca. 1870 until 1885, the Blaschkas also periodically printed their own catalogues with lists and prices of available models, which they distributed by mail to universities and museums worldwide.

Blaschkas as scientists Throughout their two-generation career, the Blaschkas had no known apprentices, but the business in models of sea creatures expanded and improved rapidly with the addition of Leopold’s son Rudolf (Rossi-Wilcox and Whitehouse 2007). Rudolf joined his father in the business in 1876, when he was 19 (although clearly he had extensive experience with glass at a younger age). In 1877, the Blaschkas purchased preserved specimens of marine invertebrates from the Zoological Station in Naples, which augmented the scientific publications Leopold had used as the basis for previous pieces. Within the next few years, they acquired a saltwater aquarium to keep living models for their designs (Rossi-Wilcox and Whitehouse 2007). This improvement moved the Blaschkas’ methods from a mode of being essentially copyists of existing scientific illustrations, to creating and designing models from original observations. The nineteenth century era of the ‘gentleman naturalist’ was well suited to craftsmen such as the Blaschkas, who had the luxury of pursuing their personal interest in natural history through their work. Rudolf made several field expeditions associated with the model business, for marine creatures in 1879 (R. Blaschka 1896) and later for botanical specimens, both before and

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after his father’s death (Rossi-Wilcox and Whitehouse 2007). Rudolf gave two lectures at meetings of the Dresden Natural History Society in 1880. His lifelong membership in the Society is evidence of his direct involvement in the local scientific community (Zaunick 1939). Personal contact with biologists throughout the Blaschkas’ career continually added new designs to their repertoire. Early on, Ludwig Reichenbach, of the Dresden museum, ordered models of terrestrial snails based on specimens he had collected (R. Blaschka 1896). Later, in 1886, Franz Eilhard Schulze of Berlin ordered models based on his illustrations of the anatomy of sponges collected by the Challenger expeditions (Hackethal 2008). These sponge models were the last animals to be added to the Blaschka range, and were purchased only by Berlin and the NMINH. Another important contact, Ernst Haeckel of Jena University, Germany, inspired a number of Blaschka models through correspondence, and loans of books including his own publications. Haeckel probably inspired the models of embryological series the Blaschkas produced, as embryology was central to Haeckel’s influential work on evolution. Accuracy was important to the Blaschkas, personally and professionally. The 1878 edition of their catalogue includes a note that all animal models are ‘made partly after my own observations and examinations, and partly by the help of the best modern Zoological Works’ (Blaschka 1878). The Blaschkas’ own interest in anatomy and biodiversity of marine invertebrates translated to products that made excellent teaching tools for those subjects. Word of mouth between corresponding scientists was clearly an important element in gaining new clients for Blaschka models (Miller and Lowe 2008; Swinney 2008). Without the Blaschkas’ personal scientific aptitude, their business would not have succeeded and grown over several decades. Blaschkas as artists As most surviving Blaschka pieces are held in natural history museums, Blaschka works seem to sit uncomfortably in the world of ‘Art.’ Certainly the first models made by Leopold Blaschka were intended as objects of beauty (Rossi-Wilcox and Whitehouse 2007). However, later motivations focussed on supplying the available market for natural history education, through museums and universities (Dyer 2008). Clearly the Blaschkas used their talents with glass and personal interests in natural history to exploit a niche market for profit (an ambition of many artists). One of the Blaschkas’ (ca. 1870) oldest sales catalogues advertises sea model anemones as ‘decoration for elegant rooms as well as for instruction at teaching

institutions and museums’, with the decorative option noted before any scientific function. The scientific accuracy of the models and the scientific knowledge of the Blaschkas themselves is no different to other artists of that period, although the medium is unusual (Van Leeuwen 2008). Haeckel was an influential scientific figure of the time, but his explicitly artistic compilation Kunstformen der Natur (Haeckel 1899) included images that were used for Blaschka designs. Interestingly, the overall accuracy and detail seems to have improved over the course of the Blaschkas’ joint career, although some level of ‘artistic freedom’ always remained (Rossi-Wilcox 2008). Although the primary medium for the Blaschka animal sculptures was glass, they also included extensive elements that would qualify as ‘mixed media’. Early models include papier maˆche´, paper inserts, and later models include wire armature and even glass-coated or bare wire tentacles. Some of the most fascinating pieces include real mollusc shells with fused glass models of the species. The subjects of their works were of great popular interest in the late nineteenth century, but perhaps one of the most surprising things to modern, twenty-first century observers is that invertebrates are not only beautiful forms but also fascinating animals. Models of molluscs The Phylum Mollusca is the particular study interest of the author, and molluscs are a significant aspect of the Blaschkas’ catalogues. The earliest catalogues included more than 60 species of molluscs (almost 25% of the models available; Blaschka 1870) and the proportional representation of molluscs remained steady at 25%, growing to 176 of 687 in 1888 (Ward 1888). The most popular groups were the gastropods (snails, slugs, sea slugs and allies) and cephalopds (octopus, squid, and kin). Very few bivalves were made, and these were only added to the range relatively late (nine in the 1888 catalogue, but none in the 1878 catalogue). The NMINH collection includes almost 200 molluscs, of which the vast majority (162) are gastropods, with comparatively much smaller numbers of cephalopods (26) and bivalves (10). Interestingly, there are several groups of mollucs that were entirely overlooked by the Blaschkas: the polyplacophorans, or chitons, were traditionally preserved by ‘mummifying’ the entire body (Gray 1847). However, they also overlooked the scaphopods, or tusk shells. The absence of the shell-less verimform aplacophoran molluscs Neomeniomorpha (Solenogastres) and Chaetodermomorpha (Caudofoveata) is very curious, since these seem to fit well into the Blaschkas oeuvre. Conchology was a thriving aspect of popular natural history in the nineteenth century. Shell collections routinely made up a substantial portion of any private

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Historical Biology cabinet of curiosities. Blaschka models filled a niche for inserting shell-less molluscs (sea slugs and cephalopods) into taxonomically arranged collections. Agents such as Ward and Damon also offered extensive shell collections that could be purchased by individual species; the NMINH also acquired shells from Damon as well as Blaschka models to ‘complete’ the display collection. Molluscs also include the only non-marine invertebrates to have been modelled by the Blaschkas, in the form of several species of terrestrial and freshwater snails and terrestrial slugs. A contemporary of Gosse, Emil Adolf Roßma¨ßler promoted freshwater aquaria in Germany as an inland alternative to the British ‘aquarium craze’ (Brunner 2003). His illustrations of freshwater snails inspired the Blaschkas’ designs. His followers may have found glass snails easier to care for. Some museums, such as the NMINH, which could afford extensive collections of Blaschka models, seem to have purchased whatever was made available. Through the various editions of the Blaschkas’ sales catalogues there is a rapid and continuous increase in the number of nudibranch gastropod (sea slug) models available, beginning with 12 species (Blaschka ca. 1870) and increasing to a total of 154 (Ward 1878). The increase was clearly consumer-driven, ‘according to repeated wish’ (Ward 1878). The nudibranch species span a larger number of families than were recognised in the Blaschkas’ day; the families ‘Doridae’ and ‘Aeolididae’ as they were known in the 19th century are now known to be polyphyletic. Nudibranchs suffer visually dramatic degradation in form and colour when the animal is preserved; the eye-catching colours and dramatic setae are stylistically presented in the Blaschka models. These make more informative teaching tools for anyone unfamiliar with the living animal, who would be totally uninspired by the preserved specimen. Cephalopods, popular animals because of their intelligence and complex behaviour, were also available in a wide variety of species. The cephalopods were the second most represented group of molluscs, but the number of different species did not change dramatically from 1878 (48 species; Ward 1878) to 1888 (50 species; Ward 1888). These are generally quite large models compared to most Blaschka animals (anemones, nudibranchs, etc). Interestingly, the anatomical detail in most cephalopod models includes three-dimensional representation of ventral features (such as suckers and beak) that are not visible when displayed (Figure 5). The early Blaschka models focus on North Atlantic species of anemones and other invertebrates; ‘exotic’ species from tropical areas were gradually added to the range. In the cases of species from outside the Mediterranean and North Atlantic, the Blaschkas were dependent on scientific illustrations. In the molluscan realm, they took designs from major contemporary malacologists and original descriptions of species from exploring


expeditions. These are included (usually in abbreviated form) as the authority in the species epithet listed in the sales catalogue: Pease, Alder and Hancock, Angas, Bergh, Verany, Pease, Draparnaud, and Ferrussac and O.F Mu¨ller. The models of molluscs include all of the various techniques and media used by the Blaschkas to execute their models. The first Blaschka mollusc was actually made of papier maˆche´, as a base for the anemone Adamsia palliata [Nr. 33] based on Gosse’s illustration (Gosse 1860; e.g. NMINH 1886.229.1). One aspect highlighted in the Crystal Creatures exhibit was the use of manufactured glass shells or real shells fused to a glass animal. In two species, a glass shell was made and painted to match the real shell: the Keyhole Limpet Diodora iltalica [Nr. 692 Fissurella costaria] (NMINH 1886.863.1) and the Green Abalone Haliotis tuberculata [Nr. 694] (NMINH 1886.865.1). The sea snail Turbo was also made with a glass shell, enlarged from life. The likeness and texture are so accurate that it may not be possible to determine whether the shell is made of glass without touching it (Figure 6). These two gastropods have open shells and it may be due to technical aspect of adhering the body to a shell; however, these are also both North Atlantic species so they may be the first gastropods made by the Blaschkas, and before they experimented with mixed media and real shells. Further gastropods (primarily from the North Atlantic) all used a real shell of the correct species adhered to a glass body. A number of species were made available as models of dissection, showing the internal anatomy. The majority of these were molluscan taxa (13 different species), including bivalves, shelled gastropods, opisthobranchs, and the cephalopod Sepia (the cuttlefish). The only non-mollusc dissection models were a polychaete, the medicinal leech, and a sea cucumber (all three are present in the NMINH collections; Figure 7). The shelled molluscs show a life-size shell with glass body, presented alongside an enlarged model of the dissection. These would have made excellent teaching aids, but were probably not ever intended for the ‘elegant room’. Molluscs represent a substantial fraction of living diversity of invertebrate species, as well as a tremendous variety of body plans. It is not surprising that they feature largely in the Blaschka repertoire. However, the seemingly repetitive experimentation with many superficially similar species of nudibranch and cephalopods may reflect the artists’ preferences as much as contemporary client demand. Nomenclature The Blaschkas demonstrated their own scientific proficiency by consistently and correctly employing the Latin species names for the animals they modelled. Taxon names and classification are not only important to systematists, but also to modern workers concerned with

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Figure 5. Blaschka glass model of the Comb-finned Squid, Chtenopteryx siculus [Nr. 593 Sepioteuthis sicula] NMINH 1886.925.1, photographed from above, in the normal display position; below, the same model from the anterior end, showing details of suckers, mouth, and siphon not normally visible. Images courtesy of National Museum of Ireland.

species conservation and biodiversity (Dyke and Sigwart 2005). In this context, species names also become important to historians interested in the Blaschka oeuvre. One area of persistent confusion for non-scientists is the mutability of taxonomy. The majority of species modelled by the Blaschkas are no longer known by the names given in the nineteenth century. These dynamics reflect the constant improvement in our knowledge of evolutionary relationships, which is still very much an ongoing science, but cause great frustration for historians and others. In essence, Blaschka models have two names. The name of the artistic piece can be considered to be the name assigned when it was manufactured; the second name is the modern, and changeable, name of the biological species it represents. In the NMINH, where the exhibits are preserved in roughly their nineteenth century arrangement, the names associated with Blaschka models served to fit in with and complete taxonomically arranged exhibits. In preparing a complete catalogue of the NMINH Blaschka holdings,

the author (JDS) endeavoured to update the species epithet associated with each model. In several cases this illuminated interesting points about the history of nineteenth century zoology. Several species of anemones are now recognised to by synonyms, the species names used by the Blaschkas were simply different colour forms or local varieties. The haloclavid anemone Peachia cylindrica was sold by the Blaschkas under the names Peachia triphylla [Nr. 74] and Peachia undata [Nr. 75], both of which are considered redundant to P. cylindrica. In most other cases, species have been recognised as junior synonyms or have simply been reassigned to other genera and families in the last 130 years. Interestingly, investigation of the NMINH collection revealed that several intermediate attempts had been made in the past century to update the nomenclature. This is the more human side of science (charming or frustrating), as these efforts were not consistent between taxonomic groups and were not continuously maintained with advances in taxonomy over time. In several cases,

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Figure 6. Blaschka glass model of the Green Abalone, with glass shell, Haliotis tuberculata [Nr. 694] NMINH 1886.865.1. Image courtesy of the National Museum of Ireland.

past re-labelling has meant that some data about the original acquisition (date, species name) were lost. Modern museum practices guard against any future loss of data.

During the Dublin Blaschka Congress there was lively debate about the ‘best’ techniques for displaying Blaschka objects. Approaches are more or less divided on lines of artistic (objects in isolation with dramatic lighting) versus historical (in the style of a scientific cabinet of curiosities). The exhibit Crystal Creatures was firmly in the latter group, and possibly that style is unavoidable when display is approached with a scientific bias. Clearly, the proper place for Blaschka models is on public display. This was the intention of their design, and their manufacture and sale. The impetus for display has prompted a rise to the challenges of conserving these objects. An increasing number of conservators have addressed the variety of media, animal glues and historical neglect typical of most Blaschka objects. Their success will lead to more confidence in bringing Blaschka objects out of storage. The papers in this volume reflect a sampling of the research presented at the Dublin Blaschka Congress. Rossi-Wilcox discusses scientific detail in the botanical models; Hackenthal presents the Blaschkas in a context of other German scientific models; Dyer discusses the North American aspect and the application of models to teaching; Swinney, and Miller and Lowe investigate the history of particular collections as case studies in Blaschka history; Van Leeuwen adds the art historical

Figure 7. Blaschka glass model of a Sea Cucumber dissection (top), Holothuria tubulosa [Nr. 274] showing internal anatomy, with anatomical organs numbered for identification NMINH 1886.939.1; (right) Sea Cucumber Psolus phantapus [Nr. 277] NMINH 1878.185.1. Images courtesy of National Museum of Ireland.

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J.D. Sigwart

perspective. Other talks at the Congress expanded these themes, discussing the history of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, collections in other museums, zoological assessment and other glass model makers. What is not debated is that these objects (as sculptures, or as models) have something to show modern audiences. Objects possess an inherent ability to teach. In this case, the objects widen their audience to encompass an artistic community, which is now in part more segregated from science than it was in the nineteenth century. Any biologist should be a delighted champion of these objects, which bring a wider popular audience to the topic of organisms (invertebrates and plants) and their anatomy. Glass artists must feel the same way about the Blaschkas’ influence on biologists. Acknowledgements The Dublin Blaschka Congress was generously supported by G. and A. Loudon and the Corning Museum of Glass. I am indebted to C. McGuinness (UCD/NMINH) for help with organising the Congress and the Crystal Creatures exhibit; P. Viscardi (UCD/NMNH), G. Dyke (UCD), L. Barnes (NMI) and many others volunteered their time and efforts. N. Monaghan (NMINH) aided and supported every stage of this work. W. Arthur (NUI Galway), M. Linnie (TCD), P. Wyse-Jackson (TCD) and J. Davenport (UCC) graciously provided access to collections in their care. H. Reiling, C. Meechan and many others were generous with their time and knowledge. Thanks are due to all of these and of course to everyone who attended the Dublin Blaschka Congress and made it a success. References Barber L. 1980. The Heyday of Natural History, 1820–1870. London (UK): Cape. Blaschka L. c. 1870. Marine Aquarien mit Actinien: Blumenpolypen u.s.w. Zierde fu¨r elegante Zimmer wie zur Belehrung fu¨r

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