Page 5 of Seaweeds, Great Britain, circa 1850

Welcome: A Guide to the Virtual Exhibition

Welcome: A Guide to the Virtual Exhibition

Earth Archives: Stories of Human Impact was conceived of in early 2019, then researched and curated from Fall of 2019 to Spring 2020, with the goal of opening the exhibition in the Eberly Family Special Collections Library in April. Like our fellow colleagues at Penn State and citizens everywhere, we have had to quickly adjust due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To read our original introduction to the exhibition, please visit the About the Exhibition page.

Having not intended to curate a virtual exhibition, but still very much wanting to share the exhibition in time for the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22nd, 2020, we have chosen to emphasize pragmatism over perfection. Not all the images displayed here are of the highest or best quality; in some cases, we did not have a chance to generate digital copies of items displayed here before the university was shut down in March; other items we are excited to exhibit will simply have to wait for the opening of the physical exhibition. But in unexpected ways, a swift move to a virtual exhibition has been liberating. Unconstrained by physical space, we can share more pages of items we had already selected. We can more easily connect visitors to existing digitized copies of compelling works, or related resources not in our collections, and even highlight complementary services and collections elsewhere in the University Libraries.

The web is not static, and this virtual exhibition will not be either. We are looking forward to leveraging this platform and continuing to find and share interesting items from our archival and rare book collections and beyond that speak to environmental history. Please enjoy this virtual exhibition as you would a trail in a state forest: enjoy the nature on display, lose yourself in the surroundings, and come back occasionally.

This exhibition is designed to let you visually peruse items and read more about the ones that interest you. But for those who desire more of a trail map, the items exhibited here have been loosely organized around some core topics that emerged in curating the exhibition. These include:

  • Arctic exploration, an area of fascination for us as curators, especially as the Arctic is undergoing dramatic changes as a result of atmospheric warming
  • Biodiversity, and representations of life and the natural world beyond human activity (though often impacted by human activity)
  • Materials that speak to the impacts of Climate Change
  • The history of Climate Science, from 200 years ago to the present, including Penn State excellence in climate-related research and contemporary strains of skepticism
  • Experiences of Earth Day, now celebrating its 50th anniversary
  • Ecomateriality, or the ecological impact of print culture
  • The history of Energy Development, and its complicated legacy of both economic development and environmental impact
  • Notable (and sometimes ongoing) Environmental Disasters, especially in Pennsylvania
  • Examples of Environmental Protection and Activism movements and actions in Pennsylvania and beyond
  • Penn State’s history in all these categories
  • Explorations of Pennsylvania’s Natural Resources
  • Observations of Weather, that most mundane of conversation starters, yet so central to human experience