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August 10, 2014

Brown University's Time Machine

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Below, excerpts from Henry Fountain's July 28 New York Times Science section story.

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If museums are meant to preserve objects forever, then forever ended here in 1945.

That year, Brown University's natural history museum, which included multitudes of animal skeletons and specimens among its 50,000 items, as well as anthropological curiosities like rope made from human hair, was thrown away.

It was a sad end to what had been a labor of love for John Whipple Potter Jenks, a Brown alumnus, taxidermist and naturalist who founded the teaching museum in 1871.

But Jenks had died in 1894 — on the steps of the museum, no less — and what by then was known as the Jenks Museum fell into disarray. It was shuttered in 1915, and the objects were scattered or stored until most of them were hauled, in 92 truckloads, to a nearby dump in 1945.

But now the Jenks Museum lives again, at least temporarily, in an exhibition that is as much about art as it is about science.

The exhibition, which also includes a recreation of Jenks's office [top] as it might have looked in the year of his death, will be on display until spring.

But the project is also about "what happens when museums and natural history objects disappear," Dr. Lubar said.

"You have a museum that is so organized and classified, and then it decays and random pieces of it get saved by chance," said Lily Benedict, who received her master’s degree in public humanities in May and worked on the project. "There’s a surreal quality to what's left."

August 10, 2014 at 08:01 PM | Permalink


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Books . . .

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | Aug 11, 2014 3:55:13 AM

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