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Chitra Ramalingam, PhD


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Chitra Ramalingam, PhD


Chitra Ramalingam is a museum professional and academic working between history of science, history of photography, and museum studies. Her research has focused on science in 19th- and early 20th-century Britain and its empire, and on the early history of photography and its relation to the sciences. She has worked with and in science museums, natural history museums, special collections libraries, and art museums, most recently as curator of photography at the Yale Center for British Art from 2017-2021. As a scholar and academic, she has taught in history of science programs, history of art programs, and history departments in the US and the UK. Her courses at Yale focus on the visual and material culture of modern science, and on the laboratory and the museum as sites of knowing. She is also the area advisor for Museums and Collections in the program for Public Humanities at Yale. As of January 2023, she is the new Director of Academic Engagement at the Guggenheim Museum, where she is helping to build new museum-based programs for multidisciplinary learning and research.

Her ongoing research project, A British Mineralogy, which includes a collaboration with Indian artist Garima Gupta, explores the histories and layered geographies of mineral specimens in Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History and in British natural history collections, inspired and provoked by naturalist and artist James Sowerby's illustrated British Mineralogy (1804-1817) and Exotic Mineralogy (1811). She is co-editor with Mirjam Brusius of William Henry Fox Talbot: Beyond Photography (Yale University Press, 2013), and co-curator with Hope Kingsley of Salt and Silver: Early Photography, 1840 – 1860 (Yale Center for British Art, 2018). At the Yale Center for British Art she also curated exhibitions on antiquarianism and architectural photography, and on social portraiture in post-1945 British photography. She is also co-editor with Henry Cowles of the Essays and Reviewssection of the journal Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences (see special sections on Pandemic Subjects, Feb 2021; How to Be an Expert, Feb 2022; Dilemmas of Archival Objectivity, in press for Feb 2023) , and a member of the editorial collective for 100 Histories of 100 Worlds in 1 Object, a dynamic, collaborative project centering excluded voices and histories around objects from the Global South in the British Museum.

Education & Training

  • PhD
    Harvard University, History of Science (2009)
  • MPhil
    University of Cambridge, History and Philosophy of Science (2002)
  • AB
    Harvard University, Physics & Philosophy (2001)