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Art & Museums

Carnegie Museum of Natural History takes a look at the intersection of science and culture

Mary Pickels
| Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History will explore the Anthropocene in a new exhibition, created  in-house and opening on Oct. 28.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History will explore the Anthropocene in a new exhibition, created in-house and opening on Oct. 28.

A new exhibit, "We Are Nature: Living in the Anthropocene," will open at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History on Oct. 28.

It will explore the Anthropocene, a concept that human activity has had a profound and pervasive impact on the planet, so much so that its effects will be present in the fossil record millions of years from now, according to a release.

"The Anthropocene is an emerging topic that museums are approaching globally, but this is the first time it has been the central focus of an exhibition in North America," says Eric Dorfman, the Daniel G. and Carole L. Kamin museum director.

"Its intersection of science and culture gives us a distinctive lens through which we can examine the inter-connectedness of humanity and nature," he says.

Museum staff designed and curated "We Are Nature," which features a wide variety of specimens from the hidden collections that tell the story of humans' impact on the earth.

Directing visitors' interest

Visitor experience is at the exhibit's core, reflected in the distinct spaces built into the gallery.

An entrance design introduces the Anthropocene as a geological era and a cultural concept. Visitors then move into a larger area presenting evidence of the Anthropocene with data and specimens like coal and slag that connect to our region's industrial history and taxidermy birds and mammals affected by human activity.

The exhibit ends with spaces designed to help visitors process new information and inspire action with information and individual measures they can take to help the environment with community-level actions.

Interactive exhibits include a virtual tour of the museum's historic Alcohol House and a "human diorama" visitors can explore.

Visitors can vote on the next celebrity animal extinction, share reactions to the Anthropocene, and contribute their voices to the ongoing conversation about conservation.

"In some ways, 'We Are Nature' is like a lab for exhibiting the Anthropocene. We plan to continually evaluate visitors' input and use it to further evolve the concepts we display in the gallery," says Becca Shreckengast, director of exhibition experience, in a release.

The museum this summer received a $100,000 Grable Foundation grant to help with developing educational programming about the Anthropocene. A curator will be hired in January, the release states.

"While we are perhaps best known as the keepers of prehistoric fossils and turn-of-the-century taxidermy, the museum is also an active research institution that contributes cutting-edge information to the larger scientific community," says Jo Ellen Parker, president and CEO of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, in a release.

"Focusing on the Anthropocene helps us to convey to our visitors how we are using our famous collections in a way that is relevant to modern science, which is at the core of our mission within the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh commonwealth," Parker says.

Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5401 or or via Twitter @MaryPickels.

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