Hair collection unlocks history 

BAR HARBORThe topic of the MDI Science Café Online for Monday, July 13, will be “Science and Sentiment: The Attractions of Hair in 19th Century America,” presented in a live online lecture by Robert McCracken Peck, curator of art and senior fellow of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, Drexel University. 

Discovering a collection at Drexel that had been earmarked for the trash because it was deemed “unfit for study,” Peck’s curiosity got the better of him. In the early 19th century compilation, he found locks of hair from artists, scientists and politicians from all over the world, including  one album that contained samples from signers of the Declaration of Independence and the first 13 presidents of the United States. 

Using photographs taken for his recently published book, “Specimens of Hair, The Curious Collection of Peter A. Browne,” Peck will share the story behind these remarkable albums. Now recognized as an irreplaceable repository for DNA, the collection is a reminder that the past can still hold huge scientific value, even as researchers strive to move ahead.   

Robert McCracken Peck is a writer, naturalist and historian who has traveled extensively in North and South America, Africa, Asia and Europe, and is the author of numerous books and articles on natural history and the history of science.  

The free, online event will be held at 5 p.m. and registration is necessary. Register at  


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