Historical Item Analysis: Crawling onto Campus: The Auzoux Silkworm

silkworm caterpillarWhile perhaps not as beloved as the Archives’ taxidermied Testudo, Louis Thomas Jerome Auzoux’s stunning papier-mache model of a larger-than-life silkworm larva deserves plenty of admiration in its own right. The exquisitely hand-crafted and painted model seems to defy time itself, and many would be incredulous to find out that a piece in such great condition was assembled all the way back in the 1880s in a Paris workshop! While the study of silkworms was arguably more material to the early student-farmers of the Maryland Agricultural College, this amazing model still serves an important function on campus today. In a world that is increasingly trending towards technology of all kinds at a faster and faster pace, this model connects us to our roots here in College Park and reminds us that even before every student accomplished a majority of their work using some sort of advanced technology, this institution was still a place of higher learning.

The quality and detail of this silkworm challenges our understanding of education in the late 19th century and proves that the University of Maryland’s excellence in 2017 and beyond has deep origins in the ability of our predecessor institution to provide its students with a stellar education. With this in mind, the Auzoux model deserves an eternal place in our university community, because we can only move forward by remembering our beginnings.

Written by Luke Harley, this is the first in a series of blog posts prepared by students in the current HIST 429F: History of the University of Maryland class taught by University Archivist Anne Turkos and Assistant University Archivist Jason Speck. Each of the students was assigned an historical item to analyze by responding to a series of six questions. They were also required to submit a brief blog post as the concluding portion of their assignment. We will be featuring some of these blog posts and the items the students reviewed for the remainder of the semester, so check back frequently for more of the HIST 429F student projects.

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