In 2003-04, Justine Cooper was artist-in-residence at the American Museum of Natural History, New York. Her access to the Museum’s collections was unprecedented, as she was the first artist-in-residence at the Museum in its almost 150-year history. During the residency Cooper documented the collections and storage areas of the Museum in a series of photographs, Saved by science. A rare glimpse into one of the world’s great natural history museums, these works examine how disparate items collected from the nineteenth century onwards have been transformed into objects of Western scientific knowledge and value.
First collected in 1898 by the Englishman A.S. Meek, these Yellow honeyeater birds ended up in famed collector Lord Walter Rothschild’s collection at Tring. When a wealthy aristocratic former mistress blackmailed him, Rothschild was forced to sell the larger part of his collection to the American Museum of Natural History in 1931 for $225,000, about a dollar per specimen.