Deborah Coen, Professor of History at Barnard and the leader of the Environmental Sciences and Humanities Cluster, integrated her teaching and research around the theme of “Biodiversity” over the course of the 2016-17 academic year. In Professor Coen’s seminar on the “History of Environmental Thought,” students’ final project was a public exhibition about the history of biodiversity. With the supervision of co-instructor Cine Ostrow, a senior exhibition designer from the American Museum of Natural History, students created, curated, and installed the entire exhibition from start to finish. Barnard undergraduate Linda Gordon took part in the seminar and shared the following about her experience:
This course highlighted the intersection of environmental histories and public knowledge through hands on experience in both subjects. We spent the first several weeks of the semester tracing different conceptions of the environment, and how social, economic, cultural and religious factors led to the evolution of these ideas over the past several centuries. We then brought this academic knowledge to life in our final project for the course, designing an exhibit about the history of biodiversity for the Washington Heights Public Library. In our deliberation over what to include in the exhibit I recognized the significance of every aspect of the curating process, as the design, content, and presentation of our panels greatly influenced the way our exhibit would be experienced and understood by the public. The exhibit, which opened at the Washington Heights Public Library to coincide with Earth Day, is the product of our hard work and will hopefully inspire a new class of visitors to learn more about the history of the environment and the role we all play in preserving the biodiversity of New York City.
The exhibition coincided with the second of two workshops on “Biodiversity and its Histories,” organized with partners at the University of Cambridge and the New York Botanical Garden. You can see information, including the full workshop program, here.