Pedro Raposo is thrilled about the power of a well-kept collection. As a seasoned museum, library and archival professional — with a passion for public engagement, science and history — Raposo has had first-hand experience of a collection’s immense potential for research and storytelling, as well as inspiring positive change.
So, it comes as no surprise that the Academy is equally excited to welcome Raposo as our new executive director of library and archives, an incredibly prestigious — and much awaited — role to manage one of the finest natural history libraries in North America.
Established in 1812, the Library Research Center contains over 250,000 volumes dating as far back as the 16th century, as well as over a million one-of-a-kind archival items — such as letters, paintings, sketches and photographs — that represent discoveries in almost every field of natural science from varying habitats and geographical locations throughout the world. Our library houses original, significant works of many well-known researchers such as Charles Darwin, William Bartram and John James Audubon, as well as the pioneering ecologist Ruth Patrick.
In 2020, the Academy completed a multi-year, $3.1 million renovation of the archives, rare book room and library workspaces to digitize and accommodate our expanding library as well as improve the preservation of our rarest and most valuable books. Our librarians and archivists are now able to care for the Academy’s irreplaceable collection in a state-of-the-art facility.
This new executive director of library and archives position has been graciously endowed by the Academy’s own Emeritus Trustees, Martha H. and I. Wistar Morris, as well as the McLean Contributionship. Additional funding for this significant role comes from the Arcadia Foundation, William Mulherin and Joseph Baker, and ANS Trustees Betsy and Barry Rorer.
Raposo joins us from the renowned Adler Planetarium in Chicago, where he was managing their world-class collections of astronomical instruments, prints and rare books.
With a doctorate’s degree from the University of Oxford, Raposo has published papers on the history of 19th century astronomical observatories, the relationship between science and empire, and the circulation of knowledge in 18th-century Europe. He has also acted as content expert and curator for several award-winning exhibitions, such as What is a Planet? which won First Prize in the 2016 Great Exhibitions competition of the British Society for the History of Science.
In addition to his academic work, Raposo has a robust history of leadership. He is co-chair of the Collections, Archives, Libraries and Museums (CALM) Caucus of the History of Science Society, as well as the secretary of the Scientific Instrument Commission of the International Union for the History and Philosophy of Science.
We reached out to learn more.
What do you love most about the natural sciences?
The most important lesson I have learned from working in an astronomical observatory and a planetarium, and from doing extensive research in the history of astronomy, is that we live on an amazing planet, and we are all on it together!
What I love the most about the natural sciences is that they are the key to understanding the inner workings of the Earth and making sense of the astonishing diversity and complexity of the life that it hosts, empowering us to strike a better balance between human endeavor and the natural world — and everyone can be part of that journey! As a meeting point between researchers, the public and the communities in Philadelphia and beyond, the Academy is uniquely positioned to bring ever more diverse audiences and constituencies on board.
Why are you excited to join the Academy?
The Academy is my kind of place — a public-facing institution of science where knowledge is made and shared, with a tremendous potential to inspire and empower everyone to learn, participate and play a meaningful role in building a better future for our planet, ourselves and all our fellow Earthlings.
With my academic background in the history of science, I am well positioned to fully appreciate the outstanding historical legacy of the institution. But I was even more thrilled to meet some of the team members during my interviewing process and to see how passionate they are about the Academy and its important role in the present and in the future. That is also my kind of team, and I could not be more excited to become part of it!
What are your goals once you join us?
From day one I want to work with the Academy’s team to bring its library and archives to the fore, helping further explore their potential for innovative research and for telling more diverse, inclusive and inspiring stories about the natural sciences and the people who make them advance. And I want to do that in ways that will make as many people as possible feel they have a meaningful part to play in this extremely important quest to better understand the natural world and take care of it.