New England Forests Exhibit At the Harvard Museum of Natural History

We have a new voice here at the TMSB. Oren is in the Museum Education MA program and he brings us a great review of a new exhibit. If you’d like to write an exhibit review and post it here, we’re happy to have it! Just write me directly – amanda.gustin[at]tufts[dot]edu.

They don’t make museums like Harvard’s Museum of Natural History anymore. The galleries are wall-to-wall with vitrines, populated with menageries of mounted or skeletal remains of animals – some extinct, some not, some soon-to-be. A motley group of large and medium sized mammals are crowded together, without environmental context, in great glass cases. In one room a section of a whale’s skeleton stretches across the entire length of a wall, with little more than a card by way of explanation. There is an entire room with cases and cases of glass flowers, seeds and leaves, gorgeously rendered to the most precise detail, for the sake of botanical study. The effect is that of a Louvre of outmoded natural history exhibits. It’s fantastic to behold, if you like that sort of thing – which, in fact, I do. It’s impressive and you can learn a lot, there’s no denying it. Still, wandering in the museum’s halls, gaping at the extraordinary collection, you sometimes get the feeling that the years of effort to modernize and contextualize museum exhibits, to make them user-friendly and interactive, have barely made their way into the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

But this past spring, in time for the United Nation’s International Year of Forests 2011, the HMNH opened a new exhibition. The New England Forests exhibition is different from what you usually see at the HMNH – it’s more interactive; you can touch it; media is quietly integrated throughout. (For the sake of full disclosure: I edited several of the exhibit’s videos on the touch-screen kiosks, working for an educational media group.)

Rather than isolating species of plants and animals, the exhibition stresses the interdependence within forests, as well as characteristics specific to New England forests. Not surprisingly there is good news and bad news. The forests of this region are vibrant, but unexpectedly young. They are growing rapidly, and this provides scientists an opportunity to learn how forests mature. As with so many other systems, the more we study forests the more we learn how intricate the interdependence of everything in the forest is. That can mean strength when life forms support each other. It can also mean fragility when a variable is introduced – for example invasive species, pollution or climate change. With development threatening to section off forests, weakening them further, New England forests have reached a crossroads. Policy decisions need to be made on how to manage our forests. As with forest life, in politics nothing works in isolation. For decisions to be made alliances must be forged, deals have to struck and budgets have to be divided and allocated.

The New England Forests exhibit doesn’t deal with politics, but it does touch on what some of the forest management options are. And it handles the complicated science of our forests with clarity. The beautifully fabricated exhibit takes up one modest room. It doesn’t change the character of the Harvard Museum of Natural History – and I wouldn’t want it to. But it’s nice to see an exhibit there that tackles important current issues with a contemporary approach.

For more information go to the Harvard Museum of Natural History website (http://www.hmnh.harvard.edu/). You can find reference to this exhibit if you click on the “On exhibit” link, and then on “Permanent exhibits.”

Museums in the News

Welcome to our weekly roundup of museums in the news! So sorry to have missed last week; we’ll try to make up for it with this week’s selections.

Police: Woman Attacks Art At DC Museum Again

Dutch city settles on looted Jan Steen painting

Nitrate negatives – museum to copy, destroy unsafe items

Archive Of Sorrow: Traveling Museum Displays Remnants Of Failed Relationships

Va slavery museum group misses tax deadline

Walton-backed museum sends ripples across USA

MFA asks early birds to pay $200 to see ‘Clock’

Ted Williams Exhibit Opens at The Sports Museum at TD Garden

More sites named for museum’s InsideOut program

Amazon’s Bezos Donates Big to Seattle Museum

British Museum gets in the manga business

How This Entrepreneur Created The National Pinball Museum

Museum of Bad Art continues to attract visitors to Boston, but don’t go if you’re an art lover…

Japanese-American Internment Camp Site Reopens as Museum

Misleading take on museum’s milestone

Inside the Oscar Museum’s Past Troubles and Uncertain Future

Folk Art Museum Considers Closing

Weekly Jobs Listing

Welcome to our weekly roundup of job listings. As always, job announcements are posted on their own page regularly. This is just the weekly roundup.

NEDCC Fundamentals of Digitization Series

This is a great course of instruction offered fairly inexpensively by one of the best institutions in New England. What’s not to love?

Register Now for NEDCC’s Fall 2011
FUNDAMENTALS OF DIGITIZATION
WEBINAR SERIES


Thursday, September 22
INTRODUCTION TO IMAGE CAPTURE

Tuesday, September 27
DIGITAL PROJECT PLANNING

Tuesday, October 18
METADATA

Tuesday, October 25
SUSTAINABLE DIGITAL COLLECTIONS

Tuesday, November 15
HANDLING COLLECTION MATERIALS DURING DIGITIZATION

Thursday, November 17
REFORMATTING SCRAPBOOKS

Thursday, November 22
DIGITAL DISASTER PLANNING

The Fundamentals of Digitization webinars are designed for those who wish to explore the basic concepts and components of creating and maintaining sustainable digital collections.


Time: 2 to 4 PM
Cost: $95 ($80 Early-bird registration. See webinar listings for deadlines.)

COMPLETE COURSE INFORMATION AND ONLINE REGISTRATION

QUESTIONS?
Contact:
Donia Conn
NEDCC Education and Outreach Coordinator
dconn@nedcc.org
(978) 470-1010 ext. 220