Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Event Blog 1

A mural outside the museum.
A taxidermied red-tailed hawk.

    For my first event, I visited the Norris Center at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The Norris Center is an on-campus natural history museum. It represents the meeting of the arts and sciences in multiple ways, the most obvious of these being the large collection of taxidermied animal specimens on display. As somebody who prepares taxidermy bird specimens myself, it is most certainly an art form, requiring precision, dexterity, and a creative eye for the aesthetic presentation of a dead animal in a lifelike way. Scientists can then make use of taxidermy specimens in order to easily study animal morphology. In fact, new species have been discovered and named by scientists searching through drawers of taxidermy specimens.


     Outside of the center, an easel accompanied by post-it notes allows visitors to post "nature notes," accounts of natural history happenings that they've observed around campus. Many of these notes are accompanied by small sketches and illustrations, reflecting the meeting point of scientific observation and artistic representation in order to serve and illuminate said observations.

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     As much as the idea of "two cultures" of the arts and sciences at odds with each other is clearly visible in other facets of the university campus, the Norris Center represents a peaceful integration of the two (perhaps the beginnings of a burgeoning third culture?). Here artistic practice and creativity inform and illuminate scientific practice, creating displays that are legible to individuals of all backgrounds and allowing scientific information (that is often quite inaccessible, jargon heavy, and complicated)  to be easily accessed by the general public. Even though this museum is at UCSC, I highly recommend that my classmates check it out if any of you are ever in the area.

Myself (left) and one of the student curators of the museum (right), with a stuffed boar's head in the background.

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