Libraries’ exhibition highlights human impact on planet Earth

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – A new exhibition in the Eberly Family Special Collections Library, “Earth Archives: Stories of Human Impact,” explores the intersection of the environment, human activity, climate change and the documentary record.

On view in the Exhibition Gallery, 104 Paterno Library on the University Park campus until Nov. 22, the exhibition invites visitors to consider a range of environmental-related topics and serves as a model for a growing, centralized resource for the Libraries’ rich trove of primary sources. Materials on view will focus around key environmental issues and themes including biodiversity, climate change and weather data, energy and extraction history, disasters and pollution, arctic exploration, eco-materiality, and environmental protection and activism. A companion online exhibition is also available.

Pennsylvania has a long history surrounding the use of its natural resources, both above and below ground, to fuel growth and economic gain on the one hand, and the preservation of natural resources to support healthy and sustainable ecosystems and communities, on the other. In her influential work “Silent Spring” (1962) on the effects of pesticides on the environment and human health, Rachel Carson, a prominent Pennsylvanian, wrote, “Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species – man – acquired significant power to alter the nature of the world. ” The exhibition will tell the stories of both historical and contemporary books and documents – and their creators – to highlight specific instances of humankind’s power to alter the environment in both destructive and constructive ways, and the power of historical and distinctive library collections to communicate the urgency of the present moment.

Highlights of the exhibition include:

  • Varied print, manuscript and art works such as a first edition of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring.”
  • Key early climate science findings from 19th-century scientists such as Eunice Newton Foote and John Tyndall.
  • An album of seaweeds collected by women off the English coast around 1850.
  • A manuscript diary illustrating glaciers encountered on the Harriman Alaska Expedition of 1899.
  • Documents and publications related to Donora, Pennsylvania, which became the site of one of the worst air pollution disasters in US history.
  • The records of student environmental-activism group EcoAction, as well as a short video about the group’s history at Penn State, made in partnership with student-run media production group CommAgency.

The exhibition also tracks the relationship between carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere (CO2 PPM) and the dates of creation and / or publication of items on view.

In conjunction with other Earth Week programming, a public tour of the exhibition is scheduled for Wednesday, April 20, at 10 am Those interested in the tour should meet in the Special Collections exhibition gallery at 104 Paterno Library.

“Earth Archives: Stories of Human Impact” is curated by Penn State University Archivist Ben Goldman and Lead Curator and Exhibitions Coordinator Clara Drummond, with additional support provided by Cameron Cook, Stelts-Filippelli Curatorial Intern; Abi Mason and Emma Mortimer, Bednar Conservation Interns ; and Bill Minter, senior book conservator.For more information or to request a tour, contact Ben Goldman at [email protected] or Clara Drummond at [email protected]

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