Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania…Carnegie Museum of Natural History announces the launch of the Center for World Cultures, the third of five new strategic Centers created to leverage the museum’s research, exhibitions, and public programming to illuminate contemporary challenges and issues. With more than 1.5 million archaeological and ethnographic objects collected over more than a century, Carnegie Museum of Natural History holds the fifth-largest anthropology collection in the United States. The new Center for World Cultures provides a framework utilizing the museum’s extraordinary anthropology collections to explore, explain, and celebrate the ways in which human cultures have evolved and how human cultures and the natural world have affected one another.
In collaboration with the museum’s Center for Lifelong Science Learning, the Center for World Cultures will create and implement live demonstrations, performances, and temporary exhibitions that consider timely cultural and social issues (see exhibitions list, below). Its staff will continue to generate scientific research and collaborations that often form the foundation for public programs and educational efforts.
Acclaimed zooarchaeologist Sandra Olsen, PhD, will direct the Center for World Cultures (CWC). Olsen currently serves as chair of Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s anthropology department. Olsen’s research on human-animal relationships—particularly her groundbreaking work on the domestication of the horse—has earned her worldwide recognition.
“Through the Center for World Cultures, our unique and irreplaceable collection will be preserved and utilized for current and future generations to explore, as we continue to make bold discoveries about how humans and nature have evolved together,” says Olsen. “As Center director one of my goals will be to increase access to our collection for professional academics and students in order to generate a deeper understanding of humanity.”
Staff and facilities
As part of the Center’s expansion of anthropological research and augmentation of its collections, a state-of-the-art analytical lab for archaeological science is planned.
Exhibitions and programs
The first project of the Center is bringing Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection, an exhibition featuring more than 200 pins from the collection of the former Secretary of State. Secretary Albright will open the exhibition with a sold-out Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures talk on December 12, 2011. Many of the pins displayed in the exhibition were worn by Secretary Albright to communicate messages during her diplomatic tenure. The exhibition examines the collection for its historic significance as well as the expressive power of jewelry and its ability to communicate through a style and language of its own. The exhibit is accompanied by a catalogue, Read My Pins: Stories from a Diplomat’s Jewel Box (Harper Collins, 2009). The exhibition opens to the public at Carnegie Museum of Natural History on Tuesday, December 13, and remains on view through Sunday, March 4, 2012.
The second major touring exhibition is to come to the museum is RACE: Are We So Different?, opening in spring 2014 at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. RACE invites dialogue about differences among people and examines the reality—and unreality—of race through the eyes of history, science, and lived experience. The exhibition considers cultural issues as well as the science behind genetic diversity, natural selection, and evolution. An important exhibition for our times, RACE ties directly to the Center’s mission of celebrating the diversity of cultures around the world and the relationships between people and their natural environments. The exhibition was developed by the American Anthropological Association in collaboration with the Science Museum of Minnesota.
Advanced Imaging Technology and Saudi Arabian Rock Art. This research documents climate change and ancient cultures in Saudi Arabia through the investigation of rock art created over the past 10,000 years. GigaPan high-resolution images of Saudi Arabian petroglyphs, shot by professional photographer Richard T. Bryant, use robotic equipment provided by CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon University and the Fine Foundation. The Saudi research is funded by the Layan Cultural Foundation in Riyadh. A website, a book, and articles are planned to disseminate the findings.
Collection, research, and collaborations
Collaborations with other regional scientific institutions are also planned. Olsen’s work includes new ways of imaging anthropological specimens—such as CT scans of the museum’s Egyptian child mummy in collaboration with scientists and physicians from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Deborah Harding’s extensive work on the Amazonian ethnographic collection has included collaborations with other Carnegie Museum of Natural History scientists to examine the flora and fauna used in the creation of these cultural artifacts. Harding also works closely with members of the Cherokee Nation in North Carolina in the reconstruction of ancient weaving techniques. Exhibitions of these research efforts are planned for the museum’s galleries.
Through collaboration with regional universities, anthropology undergraduate students will have increasing opportunities to work in our collections through for-credit internship programs at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Enhancements to laboratory workspaces will allow more graduate students and professional academics to study the museum’s collection.
Carnegie Museum of Natural History, one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, is among the top natural history museums in the country and is redefining what it means to be a 21st-century natural history museum. It maintains, preserves, and interprets an extraordinary collection of 22 million objects and scientific specimens used to broaden understanding of evolution, conservation, and biodiversity. Through five new Centers, Carnegie Museum of Natural History generates new scientific knowledge, advances science literacy, and inspires visitors of all ages to become passionate about science, nature, and world cultures. More information is available by calling 412.622.3131 or by visiting the website, www.carnegiemnh.org.
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