Pioneering British researchers have played vital roles in the development of the Earth Sciences, making discoveries that underpin our modern world. Together they account for an enormous variety of impacts on British life, from economic and urban contexts to natural and cultural realms.
Beginning around 200 years ago as the pursuits of mostly wealthy individuals, the related heritage fields of archaeology, palaeontology and geology evolved into the investigative sciences of today. While many of the renowned figures in these fields throughout the past two centuries are men who are rightly famous and celebrated for their work, there are huge numbers of largely unrecognised women who also made key contributions, right from the start.
Raising Horizons highlights the roles and contributions of women in the development of archaeology, palaeontology and geology. Their achievements range from discovering footprints nearly a million years old, reconstructing Antarctica’s lost forests, multi-media explorations of prehistory and training virtually a whole generation of archaeologists.
Fourteen portraits, posed by women working in the field today, depict an imagined moment in time from the life of a historical counterpart. Based on evidence including original photographs, memoirs, biographies and fieldwork diaries, the exhibition brings to life forgotten women from the past, whilst highlighting their continuing impact and legacy through their connections to today’s pioneers.
Raising Horizons is the result of a collaborative partnership between Leonora Saunders, renowned photographer and artist focusing on themes around gender equality, and TrowelBlazers, an organisation founded by Rebecca Wragg Sykes, Brenna Hassett, Suzanne Pilaar Birch, and Victoria Herridge, specialising in highlighting the contributions of “trowelblazers”: women in the fields of archaeology, palaeontology and geology. It is supported by Prospect, the UK’s trade union for scientists and heritage professionals, and a number of other organisations.
Promoting diverse and relatable role models is fundamental to TrowelBlazers’ work, and part of Leonora’s long-term commitment to raising issues around gender and equality through image making. Raising Horizons also reveals the hidden interconnections between historic and contemporary women, underlining the fundamental importance of networks of training, mentoring and collaboration in advancing women’s careers and building sustainable professional communities.