The Anthropocene at Carnegie Museum of Natural History
The Anthropocene is a term for the current epoch in which human activities are having such a profound influence on the planetary system that the impacts will be present in the geological record millions of years from now. Although geologists are still technically debating if and when the Anthropocene will be included in the Geological Time Scale, the museum is embracing the term as a tool for exploring the interconnectivity and interdependence of humans within nature.
The section of the Anthropocene at the museum is in many ways symbiotic with others, working with multiple museum sections and with our communities to interpret the story of this epoch, investigating both the positive and negative ways that people interact within ecosystems, observing how organisms are changing and adapting, and thinking together what this may mean for the future of life.
The National Science Foundation has awarded Carnegie Museum of Natural History a $1,254,205 grant to develop the Climate and Rural Systems Partnership (CRSP), a learning network that connects and empowers Western Pennsylvania educators, scientists, and community leaders to address climate change issues with rural audiences. The award, which funds the project for four years, recognizes the museum’s commitment to engaging and studying the Anthropocene, the current epoch in which human activity profoundly influences planetary systems.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History will partner with the University of Pittsburgh Center for Learning in Out-of-School Environments (UPCLOSE) and the Mercer County Conservation District to create hubs at Munnell Run Farm in Mercer County and Powdermill Nature Reserve, the museum’s own environmental research center, in Westmoreland County. The hubs will coordinate professional development workshops, collaborative design sessions, and community gatherings for diverse groups of local stakeholders. Participants will examine and adapt existing environmental research data, biological collections, and climate change educational tools into salient, usable resources for engagement and learning.
BirdSafe Pittsburgh is a partnership between Carnegie Museum of Natural History and seven other local conservation organizations working to research and reduce bird-glass collisions in the city. As many as a billion birds die annually from collisions with glass windows in the United States.
Products for Birdsafe Pittsburgh are tested at our research facility, Powdermill Nature Reserve in Rector, Pennsylvania, and a number of Birdsafe products can be found in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History Gift Store.
Climate and Urban Systems Partnership, or CUSP, is a national project, funded by the National Science Foundation and coordinated locally by Carnegie Museum of Natural History, that aims at changing climate conversations in urban settings. One of CUSP's major goals is to tackle the overwhelming and somewhat scary topic of climate change and turning it into a digestible conversation for education.
Nature 360 is an innovative naturalist club at Carnegie Museum of Natural History that encourages 8-13 year olds to observe and engage in the nature around them, whether that means they are observing nature in an urban setting, a playground, or a backyard. Using nature notebooks and flexible drop-in classes, Nature 360 introduces naturalist concepts to young adults who might not have realized that nature is everywhere.
We Are Nature: Living in the Anthropocene was the first exhibition in the nation to focus on the Anthropocene as a concept and it was built entirely within Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
Research conducted by our museum scientists and specimens from our own hidden collections were featured in this interactive exhibition, which allowed visitors to understand the Anthropocene on their own terms, and ended by connecting visitors to activities that are already happening locally, pluging them into a bigger network of people who are collectively making an impact.
The 2017 ICOM NATHIST Conference hosted at Carnegie Museum of Natural History focused on the topic of the Anthropocene, specifically Natural History Museums in the Age of Humanity. This international conference sparked innovative discussion about emerging ideas among museum professionals about the future of natural history museums.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History hosted the traveling exhibition Kwel’ Hoy: We Draw the Line!, which explores the struggle of Indigenous leadership to protect water, land, and our collective future.
The Future of Natural History Museums, edited by Director Eric Dorfman, begins to develop a cohesive discourse that balances the disparate issues that our institutions will face over the next decades. It disassembles the topic into various key elements and, through commentary and synthesis, explores a cohesive picture of the trajectory of the natural history museum sector.
- Pecans come from a type of hickory tree, Carya illinoinensis. In the same plant family as walnuts (Juglandaceae), pecan trees are native …Read More »
- Happy Thanksgiving! And what’s screams fall more than pumpkin? This specimen isn’t just any specimen – it is the museum’s first official …Read More »
- Cranberries are a holiday staple. Fresh or canned, the choice is yours. But where do they come from? The cranberry on your …Read More »
- It’s peak fall color in southwestern Pennsylvania, depending on who you ask! This beautiful specimen of red maple (Acer rubrum) was collected …Read More »
- These red maple (Acer rubrum) leaves were collected by Dorothy Pearth on November 6, 1959 at Coles Summit in Huntingdon county, Pennsylvania. …Read More »
- With a collection of over 13.5 million specimens, some could say that the Section of Invertebrate Zoology “loves” bugs. We’ve amassed an …Read More »
Anthropocene Events at the Museum
Speaker: Heather Hulton VanTassel
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Come meet Dr. Hulton VanTassel, our new Assistant Director of Science and Research. Heather will tell her story of her professional journey to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in the context of how she has been striving to move conservation forward and how her career path relates to the museum’s newest initiative, the Anthropocene. There are many avenues to move conservation forward from applied conservation research, land management, community outreach, and educational programs. Heather will touch upon her experience in each of those areas highlighting some of her favorite projects that aim to understand and mitigate community level responses to anthropogenic change across multiple habitats and species.
The Anthropocene in Museum Displays
When visiting the museum, we hope that visitors will take the time to relax and learn about this epoch in our Anthropocene Living Room on the third floor Jurassic Overlook. It’s a space meant for reflection and discussion of the Anthropocene and how it is related to all of the exhibits within the museum.
Anthropocene in the Media
Dr. Nicole Heller on WESA's The Confluence Human-Driven Changes Have Irrevocably Affected The Earth, But It's Not All Bad News
Dr. Nicole Heller Explains the Vital Role Natural History Museums PlayNatural History Museums Have Never Been More Necessary
Introducing the Allegheny to the Anthropocene on Allegheny Front This Age of Humans that We're Living in? It has a Name: Anthropocene
Carnegie Museum Introduces Community to the AnthropoceneCarnegie Museum of Natural History Initiates a National Discussion of the Anthropocene
The Anthropocene on Display at the Museum 8 Ways Humans Have Altered Nature on Display at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Dr. Albert Kollar on Art, Geology and the Anthropocene A Window into the Emerging Anthropocene…Through Art