ARTstor has collaborated with the Natural History Museum, London to share 1,647 images of botanical and zoological illustrations associated with Captain James Cook’s expeditions to the South Pacific from 1768 – 1779. With support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the museum has digitized watercolors and drawings and made them available for scholarship and education in the Digital Library. James Cook (1728 – 1779) was a captain in the British Royal Navy who commanded three epic voyages of exploration, charting the largely unexplored Pacific Ocean and twice circumnavigating the globe. Cook’s expeditions contributed significantly to contemporary geographic, oceanographic, and astronomic knowledge.

Of equal importance are the scientific contributions made by the naturalists and artists who accompanied Cook, which are represented by the natural history illustrations now available in the Digital Library. ARTstor previously released approximately 960 images of plant and animal specimens collected by naturalists Joseph Banks (1743 – 1820) and Daniel Solander (1733 – 1782) during Cook’s first expedition aboard the HMS Endeavour (1768 – 1771). The current release includes more than 680 images associated with Cook’s second (1772 – 1775) and third (1776 – 1779) voyages. Executed by resident artists Johann Georg Adam Forster (1754 – 1794) and William Wade Ellis (c. 1756 – 1785), these drawings and watercolors depict animals and plants collected throughout both journeys.

The Natural History Museum was founded in 1881, though the origins of its core collections date back to the 18th century. Upon his death, Sir Hans Sloane (1660 – 1753) bequeathed his extensive collection of natural specimens and other curiosities to the nation, forming the core of the British Museum. Over the years, as the British Museum acquired additional collections, it became necessary to construct a separate museum to display the natural history collections in their own space, resulting in the Natural History Museum. Today, the museum houses an extraordinary collection of over 70 million plant and animal specimens, including those amassed by Joseph Banks during Cook’s first expedition aboard the Endeavour, as well as the natural history illustrations associated with all three of Cook’s voyages.

To browse these new images, go to the ARTstor Digital Library, browse by collection, and click on “Cook’s Voyages to the South Seas (Natural History Museum, London).” Or, to view the images associated with each of Cook’s voyages, you may search the keywords: endeavour botanical OR cook forster OR cook ellis.

For more information, please view the Cook’s Voyages to the South Seas (Natural History Museum, London) collection page online.

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