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Home » News » Doctoral Candidate Sheila Scoville Awarded 2024–25 Fellowship with Smithsonian Institution

Doctoral Candidate Sheila Scoville Awarded 2024–25 Fellowship with Smithsonian Institution

Published April 18, 2024

Art History doctoral candidate Sheila Scoville has been awarded a research fellowship with the Smithsonian Institution. During the 2024–25 academic year, Sheila will be a Peter Buck Predoctoral Fellow at the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) in Washington, D.C.

Advised by a committee of research staff at the NMNH and the National Museum of the American Indian, Sheila will consult collections and archives to develop her dissertation “Full of Sweet Magueys: Visualizing Agave–Human Symbiosis in Colonial Nahua Manuscripts.” This opportunity will support her investigations of illustrated histories that convey the importance of agave to the early colonial Nahua, their ancestors including the Mexica Aztec, and descendant populations. At the NMNH, collections representing the ethnobotany of agave-dependent Indigenous cultures in Mexico and the American Southwest will enable her to illuminate the plant knowledge in sixteenth-century documents crafted by Nahua intellectuals under Iberian control. Sheila explains:

“Obscured by political and religious censure, these expressions of Indigenous identity allude to an interspecies mutualism attested to by the hundreds of agave-related items at the NMNH and NMAI, which I plan to contextualize by consulting field notes, photograph collections, botanical specimens, manuscripts, rare books, and staff across the Smithsonian’s institutions.”

Before beginning her fellowship at the Smithsonian, Sheila will take part in a five-week interdisciplinary residency at Oak Spring Garden Foundation in Upperville, VA. The mission of the OSGF is to “support and inspire fresh thinking and bold action on the history and future of plants, including the art and culture of plants, gardens, and landscapes.” As a resident, she will access the foundation’s library of books, manuscripts, and art collected by Rachel Lambert “Bunny” Mellon, the designer of the White House’s Rose Garden and East Garden. Sheila will also participate in a cohort of artists, writers, landscape architects, and scientists all involved in projects related to plants, landscapes, gardens, and the natural world.

This year, at the 112th Annual Conference of the College Art Association in Chicago, (February 14–17, 2024), Sheila met and collaborated with alumna Lesley Wolff (PhD ’18), whose scholarship and collaboration with Michael Carrasco and Paul Niell on the exhibition Decolonizing Refinement: Contemporary Pursuits in the Art of Edouard Duval-Carrié inspired Sheila to study art history at FSU. Dr. Wolff chaired the session “Expanded Histories of Postwar Painting: Identity, Memory, Visibility,” in which Sheila presented her paper “A Chicano in a Color Field: César Augusto Martínez’s Bato con Sunglasses.”