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.
- Did you know jack-o’-lanterns were once carved from turnips? Ancient Celtic cultures were known to carve turnips and place embers inside to …Read More »
- As part of ongoing Anthropocene engagement at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, we aim to support transdisciplinary conversations about urgent issues …Read More »
- In the fall of 2018, Albert D. Kollar and John A. Harper (volunteer and research associate) of the Section of Invertebrate Paleontology …Read More »
- From wild to cultivated to invasive This specimen of Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana) was collected on October 11, 1979 by W.Z. Fang …Read More »
- Nature’s Nightlights Have you ever walked through the woods at night and noticed a small glowing object near the base of the …Read More »
- Loved and hated: An urban plant with history ”There’s a tree that grows in Brooklyn. Some people call it the Tree of …Read More »
Anthropocene Events at the Museum
6–6:30 p.m. Live performance of old miners’ movement songs from Appalachia by Joe Uehlein.
6:30–8:30 p.m. Panel discussion
The history of Appalachia is tightly bound to the history of coal, and the material and sentimental attachments to this history presents a predicament for the environmental movement. On one hand, the history of coal is a history of exploitation of both land and labor. On the other, it is the history of the struggle of workers to organize for dignified work, fair pay, and safe working conditions. How should the environmental movement relate to workers whose livelihoods are tied to fossil fuel extraction? One answer has emerged with the concept of a just transition, which holds that in the transition to clean energy, no worker will be left behind. What can be learned from the buried history of labor militancy borne inside the mine? By approaching the history of coal as a history of labor, this panel asks how the long struggle for work with dignity can inform a just transition.
Shaun Slifer, Creative Director, West Virginia Mine Wars Museum
Kipp Dawson, former coal miner, union member, teacher
Joe Uehlein, Founding President, Labor Network for Sustainability
Veronica Coptis, Executive Director, Center for Coalfield Justice
This event is presented as part of “Power Beyond Extraction”, a programming series hosted at Pittsburgh-area museums on the occasion of the Shale Insight Conference, an annual convening of oil/gas industry executives. The event series is curated and organized by The Natural History Museum, a traveling, pop-up museum founded by the art collective Not An Alternative in 2014. An ongoing art intervention, The Natural History Museum has a mission to unleash the power of museums as agents of change.
The event will begin with labor leader and professional musician Joe Uehlein playing a selection of coal mining songs that “speak to the dangers of working underground, the reverence miners have for the mountains they love and call their home, and how miners live a painful contradiction where the economy that supports their families also destroys the earth. The music will be engaging, with plenty of upbeat and fight back themes.”
2–3 p.m. Screening of animated film Fire Underground
3–4 p.m. Panel discussion with artist/filmmaker
Fire Underground is an animated film by artist Nick Crockett, built in a game engine, which presents an alternative version of the 300 million year history of coal. Hovering between homage and parody, fantasy and documentary, cinema and simulation, it pitches labor history and natural history against the confused representations of Appalachia in popular culture today.
Nick Crockett, artist and filmmaker
Steve Tonsor, Director of Science and Research at Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Steve Lyons, art historian and curator, Not An Alternative / The Natural History Museum
Speaker: Eric Dorfman, Director, Carnegie Museum of Natural History
STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) is an exciting update on traditional teaching methods that fosters innovation through cross-pollinating the minds of scientists with those of artists. For museums, which engage in both formal and informal learning, STEAM offers a compelling model for future development. This event will explore opportunities for STEAM across the Carnegie and cover some exciting recent and upcoming initiatives that integrate both the arts and sciences.
This is a Carnegie Discoverers meeting. Learn more about Carnegie Discoverers and how to join.
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