Now on view at the Harvard Museum of Natural History, May 2022 — November 2023
In Search of Thoreau’s Flowers: An Exploration of Change and Loss is an immersive multidisciplinary exhibition that marries art, science, and the humanities through a modern artistic interpretation of Henry David Thoreau’s preserved plants. The installation considers the impacts of climate change on plants around Walden Pond over the arc of one-hundred-and-twenty years. The exhibition opened at the Harvard Museum of Natural History in May 2022 and will remain on display through November 2023. The core of the show is either digital or replicable (outside of Thoreau’s original specimens, which cannot travel); we welcome inquiries about bringing the installation to other institutions.
Thoreau was an enthusiastic collector of botanical samples, which document the world before the intensification of human influence on plant communities and indicate how the biosphere is responding to climate change. We draw upon 648 of of Thoreau’s pressed plant (‘herbarium’) specimens preserved in the Harvard University Herbaria. The digitization of these specimens have expanded access beyond the scientific community to humanities scholars, citizen scientists, and artists, in turn facilitating creative partnerships such as that which fueled the current exhibit.
An estimated 30% of plant species from Thoreau’s records have gone extinct, and another 35% are close to extinction, in large part due to human-driven changes in the environment. Thoreau’s collection is a botanical time machine that exists in combination with the naturalist’s notes about when and where his specimens were collected. Our installation draws attention to plant responses to environmental change through cyanotypes, data visualization, soundscapes, and spatial augmented reality.
In Search of Thoreau’s Flowers invites visitors to experience emotionally resonant connections to the profound loss of natural diversity caused by human-induced climate change. It urges us to reflect on the beauty of the natural world, calling attention to our collective need to protect and restore it.
Shop sustainable masks, pillow covers, and hand towels featuring cyanotype prints of Thoreau’s Specimens at LEA Studios
The Boston Globe (June 29, 2022)
calls “In Search of Thoreau’s Flowers” a
“stimulatingly cross-disciplinary exhibition.”
"...invites visitors to ask, “What do Thoreau’s findings tell us about what plants are winning, and what plants are losing, in the face of climate change today?”
For traveling exhibit opportunities and press inquiries, contact us and we will be in touch.