Carnegie Museum of Natural History will explore the Anthropocene in a new exhibition created by the in-house exhibitions team entitled We are Nature: Living in the Anthropocene opening October 28.
The Anthropocene is the concept that human activity has had a profound and pervasive impact on the planet, such that its effects will be present in the fossil record millions of years from now.
“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,” said Dr. Eric Dorfman, the Daniel G. and Carole L. Kamin Director of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. “Its intersection of science and culture gives us a distinctive lens through which we can examine the interconnectedness of humanity and nature.”
We Are Nature was designed and curated by Carnegie Museum’s staff and features a wide variety of specimens from the hidden collections that tell the story of humans’ impact on the planet.
Visitor experience is at the core of the exhibition, which is reflected in the distinct spaces built into the gallery. The entrance is designed to introduce the Anthropocene as a geological era and a cultural concept. Visitors then move into a larger area that presents 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 exhibition ends with spaces designed to help visitors process new information and inspire action with information and individual measures we can take to help the environment with community-level actions that scale up collective impact.
We Are Nature also includes interactive exhibits, like a virtual tour of our historic Alcohol House and a “human diorama” visitors can explore. The exhibition invites visitors to vote on the next celebrity animal extinction, share their reactions to the Anthropocene, and contribute their own voice to an important and timely conversation about conservation.
“Visitor experience and reactions are a huge piece of this exhibition,” said Becca Shreckengast, director of exhibition experience. “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.”
Carnegie Museum of Natural History has embraced the Anthropocene as one of its major strategic themes, using the concept as the basis for a stream of multidisciplinary research and the subject for a major topic for visitor engagement through exhibitions and programming. This summer, The Grable Foundation awarded Carnegie Museum of Natural History a $100,000 grant that will help the museum develop educational programming about the Anthropocene. The museum will hire a curator of the Anthropocene in January of 2018.
The museum is exploring the Anthropocene not only as a geological era, but also as a major theme across Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh through programming and the Carnegie Nexus initiative.
“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,” Dr. Jo Ellen Parker, president and CEO of Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, said. “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.”
We Are Nature is presented by Highmark, with leadership support provided by Colcom Foundation. Major support is provided by The Charity Randall Foundation, with additional support by Ronald J. and Mary Ann Zdrojkowski and John K. Orndorff, Jr.
We Are Nature: Living in the Anthropocene opens in conjunction with a wide variety of events including an international conference for museum leaders and a public screening of Before The Flood—a documentary about climate change directed by Fisher Stevens, who will be on site for a public panel discussion.