Onaga_silk_sutures

 Black braided silk sutures, treated with wax and silicone, magnified 150-fold. Nicole Ong, Biomaterial Matters 2017. 

Working Group (2018-2025)

Proteins and Fibers: Scaffolding History with Molecular Signatures

Molecular and microscale analyses of animal-based proteins and fibers are common methods used by evolutionary biologists, ecologists, geneticists, and many other scientists to study the traces of animals in history. Such research has also opened a completely new qualitative and temporal perspective for historians who, until recently, have largely relied upon archaeology, historical linguistics, or visual and textual recordings. As what is historically known about animals changes, equally, new light is shed on the animals’ role in human life and thinking. This project invites research on the methodological developments in the study of animals, especially the many uses of the molecular signatures of animalian artifacts to reconstruct animal histories. Trust and reliability figure into the molecular methods and radiometric tools used to analyze the meanings of evolutionary baselines describing animal domestication. This new research focus also explores knowledge production arising from multidisciplinary approaches, from proteomics to photoacoustic spectroscopy, to characterize animalian artifacts in biodeterioration studies and archaeological textile conservation. Historians of science and technology are invited to undertake reflexive as well as refractive study of these processes by which animal proteins and fibers leave traces and tantalizing histories—that analysts in this field continue to inquire into and piece together.

To learn more and keep up to date with the latest research of the group, please check the "Curating Proteins and Fibers" blog.

Onaga_silk

Hand-woven mid-twentieth century Amami Ōshima tsumugi (pongee) silk, magnified at 200x.

Nicole Ong, Biomaterial Matters 2017

News & Press

The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science mourns the loss of Gabriele Oropallo

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Curating Proteins and Fibers Blog

No 10
two illustrations of an amino acid chain, one folded and one unfolded.

Navigating the Concept of Proteins

What can we learn by historicizing the scientific concept of proteins?

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No 9
images of four different types of artificial leather

Leather and Its Alternatives: Historical, Technical, and Ethical Perspectives

Historically, what drives the quest for alternatives to leather, an age-old, animal-derived material?

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No 8
Dornelas P&F

P&F Working Group Fellowship News!

Good news from the Proteins and Fibers Working Group. Isabela Dornelas was awarded a research fellowship!

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No 7
table divided into numbered grids each with a different material in the centre

"Fibers of Existence" Workshop Round-up

How might an approach to fibers as forms—encompassing shapes, sequences, habits, and histories—rather than simply materials drawn from plant, animal, or mineral sources, alter our historical an...

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No 6
Our domestic birds; elementary lessons in aviculture, 1913.

Exploring Fibers: Materiality through Theory and Practice

How can examining the historical development of fields focused on materials and materiality provide us with valuable understandings about fibers?

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No 5
microscope image of bacteria edited with overlay of protein sequence and mass spec graph

Proteomics: Possibilities and Limitations

Proteomic analysis has been a game changer in the identification of animal fibers, but how can the information gained from its methods be applied?

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No 4
caterpillar on someone's hands

Accessing the Umwelt through Poetry

How do we, as humans, gain access to the lived experiences of nonhuman animals?

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No 3
scanning electron microscope image of wool fiber

Fiber: An Elastic Concept

How do scientists define fibers, and why does the study of their properties matter for historians of science?

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No 2
engraving of spider spinning webs

Between Meaning and Purpose

How should we deal with our own hubris of being human while writing about or with animals that are defined by the potential utility of their fiber?

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No 1
A wool felt exhibit, illustrating "mechanical type" felt in some of the many forms in which it appears for use with machinery as a substitute for rubber parts

Past, Present, Future

This year, we are clearing a path through a metaphorical forest of fibers to make sense of how animal fibers matter to different domains of scientific work and intellectual investigation.

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Subgroups

Projects

Publications

Narayanan, Madhu (2023). “Following ‘Fibreality’: What Does the Making of Bamboo Baskets Tell Us?” ICON: Journal of the International Committee for the History of Technology 28 (2): 105–127.

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Onaga, Lisa and Laurence Douny, eds. (2023). Making Animal Materials in Time. Special issue, Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 53 (3). Oakland, CA: University of California Press. https://online.ucpress.edu/hsns/issue/53/3.

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Onaga, Lisa and Laurence Douny (2023). “Making Animal Materials in Time.” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 53 (3): 197–220. https://doi.org/10.1525/hsns.2023.53.3.197.

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Onaga, Lisa (2022). “From Factories to Surgeries: Prototyping Threads.” Unbound 4: 1–11. http://www.unboundjournal.in/unbound-issue-4-2022/.

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Onaga, Lisa (2022). “Reprogramming the Story: Edible Insects as Vaccines.” International Review of Environmental History 8 (1): 111–120. https://doi.org/10.22459/IREH.08.01.2022.07.

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Grote, Mathias, Lisa Onaga, Angela N. H. Creager, Soraya de Chadarevian, Daniel Liu, Gina Surita, and Sara E. Tracy (2021). “The Molecular Vista: Current Perspectives on Molecules and Life in the Twentieth Century.” History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 43 (1, Article 16). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40656-020-00364-5.

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Onaga, Lisa (2021). “A Matter of Taste: Making Artificial Silkworm Food in Twentieth-Century Japan.” In Nature Remade: Engineering Life, Envisioning Worlds, ed. L. A. Campos, M. R. Dietrich, T. Saraiva, and C. C. Young, 115–134. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

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Douny, Laurence (2019). “From Pits to Pots: Indigo Dyeing Traditions of the Maranse of Burkina Faso.” Technology’s Stories 13.06.2019: 1–17. https://doi.org/10.15763/jou.ts.2019.06.13.01.

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Lowengard, Sarah (2019). “Western Travelers Describe Foreign Textile Practices.” Technology’s Stories 13.06.2019: 1–18. https://doi.org/10.15763/jou.ts.2019.06.13.03.

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Onaga, Lisa (2018). “Measuring the Particular: The Meanings of Low-Dose Radiation Experiments in Post-1954 Japan.” Positions: Asia Critique 26 (2): 265–304. https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-4351566.

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Past Events (Most Recent)

A Silkworm For All Seasons

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Proteins & Fibers Inquiry I: Animal Histories on the Proteomic Horizon

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Proteins & Fibers Inquiry II: Animal Histories on the Zooarchaeological Horizon

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Horny Substances and Medical Properties: The Nail of the Great Beast

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Vegetable * Animal * Transformation

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Documenting Impermanence: Five Centuries of Mapping Transient Fishing Stations in Newfoundland, Canada

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Proteins & Fibers Inquiry III: "Betwixt and Between: Reconstructing Animal Histories with Teeth"

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Proteins & Fibers Inquiry IV: “Reading the Book by Ignoring the Words”

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Animal Materialities: Compositions and Practices in the History of Science

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Proteins and Fibers: Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry

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Proteins and Fibers

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Reading Animal Materials

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Magnifying Insect Histories

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Magnifying Insect Histories

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Animal Materials as Multiple: Historical Problems in "Reading Animals"

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Reading Group: Animal Fibers as Sources of Inquiry

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Reading Group: Animal Fibers as Sources of Inquiry

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Reading Group: Animal Fibers as Sources of Inquiry

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Reading Group: Animal Fibers as Sources of Inquiry

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Fibers of Existence—Disordering Animals

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Reading Group: Animal Fibers as Sources of Inquiry

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Reading Group: Animal Fibers as Sources of Inquiry

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Reading Group: Animal Fibers as Sources of Inquiry

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Reading Group: Animal Fibers as Sources of Inquiry

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Reading Group: Animal Fibers as Sources of Inquiry

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