Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh





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Patrick McShea: The Educational Loan Collection     


While no teacher is required to borrow material from Carnegie Museum of Natural History, nearly 400 innovative teachers each year know how to enliven their lessons with everything from bird eggs to moose antlers.  A fourth grade teacher will borrow a stack of touchable pelts for his lesson about frontier fur trade, and a middle school writing teacher will challenge teams of seventh graders to compose a full page of adjectives describing the bird and mammal taxidermy mounts displayed in her classroom. 



Pat McShea with a pair of Moose antlers.  Behind him are a few of the more than 200 boxes of natural history materials that are borrowed by educators.             

Such resourceful educators come from more than 150 western Pennsylvania schools--a public, private, and parochial cross-section that includes everything from pre-schools with fewer than twenty students, to high schools with enrollments beyond 2,000.

All these unique materials are borrowed from the Educational Loan Collection, a century-old outreach program with an inventory of more than 10,000 objects.  As coordinator for this unusual enterprise, I match the available materials with a teacher's needs, and try to help every borrower understand the museum and the role of scientific collections.

Ideally, loan materials are will enhance a future class visit to the museum.  Students touring Alcoa Foundation Hall of North American Indians, for example, are likely to understand a museum Docent’s explanation of the Arapaho world view, as depicted in the pattern of a parfletch, if they’ve first examined one of these stiff, buffalo hide pouches in their own classroom.  During the school year borrowed items, whether fossils, minerals, bear skulls, or sets of wetland birds, or poisonous plants, symbolize the vast, systematically arranged, research collections that the museum holds in public trust.  Learning from these borrowed museum materials is a gradual process, but teachers regularly report how much natural history their students learn.  One teacher noted recently that a sixth grader described the portable display of "Common Local Beetles" with scientific objectivity, as “a record of co-inhabitants of Pittsburgh.”


For more information, call 622-3292.

Photo Credit:  Melinda  McNaugher





Fall Colors Across North American                                 

Photography by Anthony Cook


Natural History Gallery

September 29, 2001 to January 12, 2002




Fall colors are like the bouquet a magician pulls out of his sleeve and presents with a flourish to an expectant and amazed audience….  They materialize like magic where the week before there had been only green.

                                                                                                              --Anne Zwinger



Author, painter, conservationist and perhaps most of all, photographer, Anthony E. Cook has spent the last four fall seasons travelling and hiking through the color belt in the 30 to 70-degree latitude range that flows from Alaska and Canada down to the American south.  The result is his Fall Colors Across North America, a brilliant presentation of the power of abstract designs and shapes that expands our appreciation of landscapes


In the latest issue of Outdoor Photographer magazine (October, 2001), feature writer James Lawrence said of Cook,  "Nature photographers rise to prominence as do artists in every medium by giving us unique yet somehow universal evocations of our own experience of the world.  Anthony Eaton Cook intends to carve his own niche into the photographic landscape by presenting us with a familiar subject dripping chroma of North America's fall colors in a fresh and thoughtful style.  We have all seen fall colors.  We may never have felt them quite like this."


Cook's ability is to somehow isolate a unique element within the landscape that arouses strong emotions from the viewers.  His approach might be to focus upon a graphic pattern or shape, highlighted by interesting light, or by the power of a simple composition.


Says Lawrence, "Cook's introspection into his own pre-visualization process" is seen in his language, peppered with phrases like "dynamic positioning of subjects," "shapes and patterns, and the "push and pull" of contrasting elements.   It is a language that derives naturally from a lifelong study and interest in painting, and his close relationship with a celebrated wildlife painter Robert Bateman.


Anthony Cook's photography has been published extensively throughout the world, and he is the author or of the best-selling photo-essay book The Cook Forest--an Island in Time (Falcon Press).   The exhibition Fall colors Across America will tour North America beginning this fall, and will close in 2005 at the American Museum of Natural history in New York.








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