The Shades of Things: A History of Color Dictionaries and Descriptive Charts in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Page from Robert Rigdway's Color Standards and Color Nomenclature, 1912

Please join the Smithsonian Libraries on Tuesday, March 21, 2017 for a lecture featuring Dan Lewis, Dibner Senior Curator for the History of Science and Technology at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, and author of Belonging on an Island: A Modern History of Hawaiian Birds in Four Species (forthcoming) and The Feathery Tribe: Robert Ridgway and the Modern Study of Birds.

6:00pm, Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Baird Auditorium at the National Museum of Natural History
10th Street and Constitution Ave NW
Washington, DC

This event is free. RSVP is requested. Please click here to RSVP or contact us at 202.633.2241 or silrsvp@si.edu.
For access services, please contact us at silrsvp@si.edu or 202.633.2241, preferably two weeks prior to the program.

The Shades of Things: A History of Color Dictionaries and Descriptive Charts in the 19th and 20th Centuries.
Dan Lewis, Dibner Senior Curator for the History of Science and Technology at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.

Quantifying color has always been slippery business. How have people interested in the subject come up with a common language – and common colors – so that people can talk comparatively and accurately about colors? In a world without universally-accepted color terminology or standards, dictionaries in the nineteenth and early twentieth century laid essential groundwork for modern color systems such as the Pantone system. This talk will discuss the ways that color dictionaries and descriptive charts gave naturalists, and many others, a language that was both visual and textual, for identifying with much greater precision just what a color was, and what a color name meant.