December 11, 2017 (REVISED January 11, 2018) Symposium to Explore Scientific Illustration from Renaissance to Digital Age

Scientists, Artists, Historians Examine Role of Illustration in Advancing Scientific Understanding

Press Contact: Brett Zongker (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Stephanie Stillo (202) 707-3402
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"Master and Student" from Lucidarius. Strassburg, ca. 1481. Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection #84

A symposium March 15-16 will examine how creative illustrations have extended human understanding of science. The Library of Congress will bring together historians specializing in the scientific illustrations of the Renaissance with contemporary scientists, technologists and artists to explore the longstanding relationship between science and illustration.

The symposium, “Imagining the Extraordinary: Scientific Illustration from the Renaissance to the Digital Age,” will feature experts from NASA, the Adler Planetarium, the Smithsonian Institution and several universities. Bringing together scholars from the humanities, science and the arts, this program will explore key concepts in animating the natural world, including artistic collaboration, imagining the invisible and rendering images for multiple audiences.

The symposium is free and will be held in the Coolidge Auditorium, but registration is required. To secure tickets, visit this event site:

Featured speakers will be divided into thematic panels:

  • The Heavens
    • Kimberly Arcand, visualization lead for NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory
    • Pedro Raposo, curator of Adler Planetarium’s Webster Institute for the History of Astronomy
    • Roger Gaskell, antiquarian book specialist in medical and technical books, Roger Gaskell Rare Books, who teaches courses in bibliography and book illustration in Cambridge, Oxford and Charlottesville, Virginia
  • The Earth
    • Kay Etheridge, professor of biology, Gettysburg College
    • Tom Keegan, head of Digital Scholarship & Publishing Studio at the University of Iowa
    • Eleanor Lutz, infographic maker for the Tabletop Whale blog
  • The Inspired
    • Lilla Vekerdy, head of special collections, Smithsonian Libraries
    • Catherine Newell, assistant professor of religious studies, University of Miami and the Larson Fellow in Health and Spirituality at the Library of Congress
    • Greg Dunn, artist and neuroscientist, Greg Dunn Design
  • The Unseen
    • Vincent Rossi, senior 3D program officer, Smithsonian Institution

The Library’s Rare Book and Special Collections Division also is working to digitize hundreds of science titles from its collections to provide access to five centuries of books on astronomy, botany, zoology, medicine, chemistry, geology, mathematics and physics. “Imagining the Extraordinary” is intended to celebrate this mass digitization by encouraging creative engagement with the collection.

The Rare Book and Special Collections Division holds more than 1 million books, broadsides, pamphlets, theater playbills, prints, posters, photographs, and medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, encompassing nearly all eras and subjects maintained in more than 100 separate collections. The collections offer scholarly documentation of the western and American traditions of life and learning. Digital collections are available online at

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States—and extensive materials from around the world—both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office. Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at; access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at; and register creative works of authorship at


PR 17-183
ISSN 0731-3527