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New England Forests Exhibition Opens May 21 at Harvard Museum of Natural History’s new Zofnass Family Gallery

On Saturday, May 21, 2011 the Harvard Museum of Natural History will debut the new Zofnass Family Gallery with the opening of New England Forests, a permanent multi-media exhibition that explores the natural history and ecology of our regional forests, their responses to human activity, and their environmental significance. The museum will offer a special preview of the new gallery with a reception for museum members on Thursday, May 19, 2011. To complement the exhibition, the museum will sponsor a fall 2011 series of public lectures, workshops, and symposia featuring Harvard faculty and other experts. 

What are the plants, animals, fungi, and microbes that make up a forest? How do they interact? How do forests respond to climate, introduced species, land development, and other environmental change? New England Forests will tackle these and other intriguing questions by immersing visitors in each of three New England forest landscapes designed and constructed by drawing on the rich natural history collections of Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology and the expertise of botanists, ecologists, evolutionary biologists, and system scientists from across the University. The exhibition features current research about how forest communities work, cycle water and carbon, interface with climate, and respond to invasive species.

The broad goals of the exhibition are to enhance public understanding of the dynamic and varied nature of our forests and initiate public conversation about their use, conservation, and management. New England Forests will engage visitors in the astounding diversity and network of complex relationships within forest communities. Museum visitors will explore the ecology of woodland caribou, wolves and other wildlife of New England’s old growth communities; they will be captivated by lichen cities clinging to a rock, the mysterious subsurface partnerships between trees and forest mushrooms, and the circle of life within and around a forest pond from tiny aquatic insects to a giant moose. Visitors will be encouraged to observe and “read” the local landscape for clues about its past and to contemplate the challenges and choices we face in planning our forests’ future.

This new exhibition was made possible by a generous gift from Harvard alumnus Paul Zofnass (AB’69, MBA’73, HLS’73), an avid sailor and outdoorsman, who grew up in Belmont, MA and often visited the public galleries of Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology as a child.

“We are deeply grateful for this generous gift, which offers an extraordinary opportunity to showcase dramatic specimens, present important research, and raise critical policy issues in the context of a regional landscape familiar to most of our visitors,” said David Ellis, Interim Executive Director of the museum. “This exhibit will engage members of the Harvard community and the general public, as well as provide a valuable resource for educators from throughout the region.”


About the Harvard Museum of Natural History

With a mission to enhance public understanding and appreciation of the natural world and the human place in it, the Harvard Museum of Natural History draws on the University’s collections and research to present a historic and interdisciplinary exploration of science and nature. More than 180,000 visitors annually make it the University’s most-visited museum.

The Harvard Museum of Natural History is located at 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, a seven minute walk from the Harvard Square T station. For general information, please see the website, or call 617.495.3045. 

The press release is available for download in pdf format.