Abandoned Rails

Museum Work

A childhood trip to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago directed my focus toward geoscience, archaeology, and American history. I recall parting with my lunch money for a fragment of dinosaur bone that I treasured for years.  Since then, museums have been special places for me.

Material culture is a key component of cultural geology. In this realm, I have participated in the development of exhibits and educational programs for a variety of museums, and continue to steer my students toward these institutions.  In reverse chronological order, my design experience has been for the:

  • Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme, Connecticut, 2017.  Consultant for the “SEE/Change” project to develop art-based curriculum materials for the Connecticut Social Studies State Standards. An On-line teacher resource for Grades 3-5.
  • Walden Pond State Reservation.  Concord, MA, 2015. Initial scholarly consultant for the origin of Walden Pond exhibit at the new Visitor Center (in progress),  based largely on my recent book Walden’s Shore: Henry David Thoreau and Nineteenth Century Science (Harvard, 2014).
  • Hill-Stead Museum, Farmington, Connecticut, 2007-2010. Inventory and documentation of historic stone walls. I also participated as outdoor exhibit design and as chapter author in the museum’s first monograph, Hill-Stead: The Country Place of Theodate Pope Riddle, edited by James Gorman and published in 2011 by Princeton Architectural Press.
  • Connecticut State Museum of Natural History. University of Connecticut, 2007-2008. Design assistance, script-writing, and technical consulting for three exhibits:  the entry (stone wall) exhibit; Connecticut geology;  and  climate history exhibits. What had been my teaching collection of special stones was mounted to the wall as part of the exhibit.
  • Connecticut Science Center, Adraien’s Landing, Hartford, CT. 2006-2008. Technical consultation for two exhibits: the Connecticut River, and Connecticut geology. The museum opened in Fall, 2009.
  • Webb-Deane-Stevens Museum, Wethersfield, CT. Spring 2006. Technical consultant to their exhibit “Connecticut Rocks.”
  • William Thomas Benton Museum of Art, University of Connecticut  Spring, 2003. Working with Art Curator Thomas Bruhn and his staff, we created an exhibit and catalog titled “Two Views of Middle Earth: Landscape Art and Geology,” featuring fourteen works, thirteen from the collection, and one as the cover of the introductory geology text then in use. This exhibit was re-hung in Fall, 2011.
  • Connecticut State Museum of Natural History.  University of Connecticut, 1985-1998.  I served on the board for more than a decade with Carl Rettenmeyer during its transition from the “cabinet” stage in the North Reading Room of Wilbur Cross to the plans for the Hillside Road building.  My board position was vacated and refilled when I was away for a full-year Fulbright in Chile.
  • Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, Ledyard, CT. Early 1990s. For three exhibits — glacier, ice-age life, and explore the core — I was involved at all stages between “back of the envelope” conception to grand opening.
  • University of Alaska Museum of the North, Fairbanks, AK, 1982-1984. I was a staff employee during museum exhibit design, participating in various ways. The entry exhibit features the Colorado Creek Mammoth, the excavation of which I supervised as a funded “salvage archaeology” project.

Photo: Abandoned railroad lines in Proctor, Minnesota, which used to link the famous Mesabi Iron Range to ore tankers in Duluth. Understanding the ore and the route it took involve cultural geology.