Neal Overstrom: Salon at the Athenaeum

neal overstrom

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Neal Overstrom: “What Use is the Giraffe?” Part 4

la giraffeThe RISD Edna Lawrence Nature Lab Director Neal Overstrom discusses “Collecting Nature: Menageries, Museums, and the Human-Nature Connection” (with a digression on a 21st century giraffe). Part 4 of ‘What use is the giraffe?’, The Evolution of Science, Society, and Spectacle in the Cosmopolitan 19th Century, is part of a series on the giraffe who went to Paris in 1827. Over the past two millennia the display of specimens from nature – first through the acquisition of the unusual for spectacle and later through systematized collections for knowledge – provided opportunities to encounter, organize, and control elements of nature in ways that earlier peoples could not. We tend to frame these relationships in the context of history and culture, but how does our own evolutionary heritage contribute to our sense of awe, wonder, or curiosity?

Neal Overstrom Bio: Neal Overstrom is a biologist, designer, educator and the Director of The Nature Lab at Rhode Island School of Design. His work has focused on promoting environmental education and literacy through informal learning experiences. Prior to coming to RISD he held senior posts for exhibit development, zoological management, and aquatic animal research at the Mystic Aquarium.

Neal earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Connecticut, a Master of Arts in Zoology from Connecticut College, and a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In 2009 he was named the Landscape Architecture Foundation’s University of Massachusetts Olmsted Scholar, exploring the intersection of living systems, technology, and aesthetics in designing for sustainability. His current interests involve investigating biological influences on design, particularly the ways in which pattern, form and living elements in the built environment can reinforce the human-nature connection.

Sponsor: Dr. Joseph A. Chazan. Made possible in part by Susan Jaffe Tane and several friends of the Athenaeum who wish to remain anonymous

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Author: Tim Blankenship

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