Workshop: Paper Heritage Making: Mexican Treasury and Baroque Rome

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This exploratory workshop has been designed with a two-fold purpose. On the one hand, it aims to substantially contribute to the conceptualisation and design of a ground-breaking digital humanities project dedicated to the so-called Tesoro Messicano (Mexican Treasury) and its multiple production and circulation contexts between the old and new worlds. On the other hand, it introduces a series of working meetings that are expected to boost a highly innovative research agenda focusing on the complex relationships between cultural heritage and history. Thus, the potential of the concept of paper-heritage-making will be analysed, and thoroughly discussed at the analytical crossroad between a historical issue (heritage as a process), a conceptual resource (digital), and an impact strategy oriented towards the circulation of knowledge and know-how, interdisciplinary training-through research, and social participation. This multilevel approach will continuously return to Rome, meant as both a trans-local urban space, opened to further comparison and entanglement, and a complex global dimension materialised through scholarly, diplomatic and missionary networks as well as multiple contexts of plural confessional cultures.

The workshop argues for the Mexican Treasury as a paper-monument, i.e. a complex artefact made up of strict interconnections of textual, visual and material dimensions, fostering shifting entanglements of knowledge practices, multiple searches for legitimation, political claims, and competing memory production. As is well known, the Rerum Medicarum Novae Hispaniae Thesaurus was published in 1651 as the late result of Francisco Hernández’s complex medical and natural-historical legacy. Though many actors participating in its plural and long-lasting making regarded this “monstrous” in-folio as a scientific failure, it was nevertheless published in Rome. While the Papal city was losing its political centrality in Europe and renegotiating its universal aurea, the Mexican Treasury was resumed, and a complex bulk of knowledge on the natural American world was made public after lengthy exposure to different appropriations, re-significations and sedimentations, thus reinventing spatial and temporal junctures with the earlier past.

In the last years, the apparently increasing scholarly attention towards such a “born-old” natural history of the new worlds invites us to reflect on its multiple material dimensions, plural contexts, and different uses. By opening up a collective reflection on this paper-monument, the time is now ripe to thematise the Papal city as a complex urban space of paper sedimentation, artefact entrapments, as well as a trans-local communicative arena where knowledge-making and competing processes of value-creation, resignification, oblivion and destruction, continuously renegotiate the future.




June 27 14.00 CET    Royal Netherlands Institute Rome


Tesse Stek (Director KNIR) Welcome

Miguel Gotor (Councillor for Culture of Rome) Welcoming speech


Approaching Rome through Heritage-making

Chair: Mariana Françozo (Leiden University)

Sabina Brevaglieri (Humboldt Universität – Berlin), opening remarks: Paper Heritage Making: Mexican Treasury and Baroque Rome



Panel 1. Natural histories of America: past legacies and present challenges

Chair: Maria Conforti (Sapienza Università di Roma)

Mariana Françozo (Leiden University): The Paulo Duarte copy of Piso and Marcgraf’s Historia Naturalis Brasiliae (1648): exploring the circulation and transformation of knowledge in early modern paper-heritage practices.

José Pardo-Tomás (IMF-CSIC Barcelona): Il lascito di Francisco Hernández. La travagliata storia dei suoi manoscritti.

José Ramón Marcaida (CCHS-CSIC, Madrid): Image-making and its challenges: Nieremberg’s Historia naturae (1635) and the Mexican Treasury. 

Matthijs Jonker (KNIR): Indigenous Contributions to the Mexican Treasury





Public Lecture at 17.00 CET

Chair Matthijs Jonker (KNIR)

Neil Safier (Brown University, Providence): Letters to Francisco: On Failure, Exploration, and Innovation in Early Modern Heritage-Making
To attend the public lecture, please register by sending an e-mail to



June 28, 9.15 CET    Escuela española de historia y arqueología en Roma – EEHAR-CSIC

Elena María García Guerra (EEHAR, CSIC) Welcome

Sabina Brevaglieri (Humboldt Universität – Berlin) Introduction remarks


Panel 2. Engaging with the Mexican Treasury Critical Edition

Chair: Irene Baldriga (Sapienza Università di Roma)

Ana Gómez Rabal, (IMF-CSIC, Barcelona) / Anna Maria Sciacca (Rome): La traduzione come laboratorio di saperi

Florike Egmond (Rome), Saveria Rito (Rome, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale): Hidden treasures in the Tesoro Messicano: the exemplar of the Collegio Romano’s pharmacy 

Ioana Magureanu (National University of Arts, Bucharest) , Giovanna Scaloni (Rome, Calcografia Nazionale): Faber’s skeletons between copper and print







Panel 3. Tools and reflections for the Mexican Treasury. 

Chair: José Pardo-Tomás (IMF-CSIC, Barcelona)

Filippo Camerota (Museo Galileo): Tra ricerca e diffusione culturale: la piattaforma di studio del Tesoro Messicano

Alessandro Ottaviani (Università di Cagliari), Valentina Vignieri (Museo Galileo): Presentazione del database sull’iconografia botanica del Tesoro Messicano



Lunch Break



Panel 4. Mexican Treasury goes digital

Chair: Federica Favino (La Sapienza Università di Roma) Introductory remarks

Susanna de Beer (KNIR): How to Digitally Unlock a Paper Treasury? Examples from ‘Mapping Visions of Rome’

Katie McDonough – Valeria Vitale (London, Alan Turing Institute): Treasury of Places: Semiautomatic Methods for Collecting and Linking Places on Historical Maps and Texts

Patricia Murrieta-Flores (Lancaster University): Mapping, connecting, and querying the Tesoro Messicano: A possible data mining approach to the historical source






Panel 5. Pathways to impact:  entangling training, research, and social engagement

Chair: Emma Sallent Del Colombo (University of Barcelona)

Alessia Ceccarelli (La Sapienza, università di Roma) / Blythe Alice Raviola (Università di Milano): Beyond the borders. Laboratory of history and historiography, networking action between Europe and Central America

Martin Morales SJ / Irene Pedretti (Pontificia Università Gregoriana): Epimeleia. Itinerari e pratiche di formazione sperimentate dall’Archivio storico della PUG.

Helena Wangefelt (Uppsala University): Lost in heritagization. Methodological challenges and possibilities in heritage studies training and research

Emma Sallent Del Colombo (University of Barcelona) / Alfons Zarzoso (Barcelona, Museu di Història de la medicina de Catalunya): Training through research, scientific spots, exhibited objects: some Barcelona experiences.



Scientific Committee: Sabina Brevaglieri (Humboldt UniversityBerlin; scientific Coordinator); Mariana Françozo (University Leiden), Federica Favino (La Sapienza Università di Roma), Matthijs Jonker (KNIR), José Pardo-Tomás (IMF-CSIC, Barcelona), Emma Sallent Del Colombo (University of Barcelona)