Brown Bag Lecture:  “Movement, Spark, and Color: A Short History of Fireworks”

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Date: March 5, 2013
Time: 12:00 to 1:00 p.m.

315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Event Type: Open to the Public
Fee: Free
RSVP Online: No Registration Required

A talk by Laura Kalba

Charting the history of fireworks in France from the early modern period to the end of the 19th century, my presentation highlights how this classic instrument of royal power and splendor was reinvented for the purposes of modern mass politics. The intriguing technological history of how fireworks acquired their bright colors will be addressed in this context, underlining the connections between these large-scale spectacles orchestrated by the state and the colorful extravaganzas produced by modern capitalism on a more routine basis.

Laura Kalba is an assistant professor of art history in the Department of Art at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Her teaching and research focus primarily on 19th- and early 20th-century European art, architecture, and popular commercial visual culture. She has published articles on these subjects in History and Technology (2011), Representations (forthcoming), and Modernism/Modernity (forthcoming). In 2012 she worked as a curatorial consultant for the Smith College Museum of Art’s exhibition Debussy’s Paris: Art, Music, and Sounds of the City ( Her book project, Color in the Age of Impressionism: Technology, Commerce, and Art, examines the impact of new color technologies on French visual and material culture from the early commercialization of synthetic dyes (1857) to the Lumière brothers’ perfection of the autochrome photography process (1907).

About Brown Bag Lectures

Brown Bag Lectures (BBLs) are a series of weekly informal talks on the history of chemistry or related subjects, including the history and social studies of science, technology, and medicine. Based on original research (sometimes still in progress), these talks are given by local scholars for an audience of CHF staff and fellows and interested members of the public.

For more information, please call 215.873.8289 or e-mail

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