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The Nature Library is a collection of handmade books and objects from the natural world contributed by a mix of artists, scientists, and thought leaders. The use of “library” in the collection’s title plays on two meanings. Each object can be considered a book that embodies scientific information and personal memory. In addition, each object has an accompanying handmade book. For instance, a seashell contributed by public health expert from the Beautywell, Amira Adawe, holds both chemical information about the ocean as well as holding her childhood memories of annual ceremonies to honor ancestors and a game called Gariir that she played growing up in Somalia. In the handmade book that goes with the shell, visitors shared stories of their childhoods, rituals to mark the passing of family members, and confessions of personal fears.
The initial Nature Library exhibit was at the Landmark Center in downtown Saint Paul for three months in the fall of 2019. In this exhibit the general public was given the opportunity for creative and scientific experiences. Collaborative bookmaking and storytelling offered visitors a concrete reminder that nature and memory connect us to the stories of friends and strangers. All this to ask the question: what stories do you read in the landscape? Visitors’ experiences connected them to their history, landscape, and community.
If you are interested in interactive literary art installations, read my essay in Rumpus.
About the Contributors
Soumaya Belmecheri is a scientist studying climates of the past recorded in the concentric rings of trees. She contributed, A Piece from the Forest: Cone and Tree Core from an Atlas Cedar Tree (Algeria).” She collected these during a scientific expedition in 2014. These objects are a reminder of those forests and her trip. They shine a light on this endangered and vanishing tree species.
Kurt Kipfmueller is an associate professor of geography researching how fires have shaped the landscape and how fires have been influenced by both climate and human activities. He contributed, A History of Change Recorded by a Tree. This cross section is from a fire-scarred red pine log from Voyageurs National Park that illustrates the complex interaction between fires and people.
Amy Myrbo is a research scientist in the Twin Cities. She contributed, Seeing Deep Into the Past of Lake McCarrons. This is a core sample of lake mud that tells the story of landscape changes in Roseville, one of the older parts of the Twin Cities.
Susan Moore was one of the first female contractors in Minnesota. In her early seventies she took on a new adventure to live on a boat in California while fixing it. She contributed, Big Fat Pine Cone, from California because it reminds her of simpler times in the past.
E.A. Farro is a scientist and writer who has worked in environmental policy. She is the founder of The Nature Library. She contributed, From the Ocean Depths, a rock picked up by the Alvin submarine on a research cruise 150 miles off the coast of North Carolina.
Bao Phi was born in Vietnam and raised in the Phillips neighborhood of South Minneapolis. He is a writer, a performance poet, and a single co-parent father. He contributed, Water from the Missississippi River, a vial of water from the Mississippi River, as water symbolizes flow, growth, and change.
Stuart Klipper is a photographer. He has been to Antarctica six times; the first as participant in a sailing expedition, and all the others under the aegis of the National Science Foundation. He contributed, Cavendish Dolerite Ventifact from the Dry Valleys of Antarctica collected in 1989. This is a very unusual rock that, since he’ll never get off the planet, stands as his Moon or Mars rock.
Jen Ford Reedy is the President of the Bush Foundation. She contributed, Mamma’s Pecans, a jar with pecans from her great-grandparents’ farm in Louisiana. She keeps the jar displayed in her home as a reminder of her mom and her family roots.
Tenzin Dolkar is a Tibetan-American living in Minnesota. She is navigating how to raise her children as a Tibetan, and what being Tibetan means for the third generation of Tibetans born outside of Tibet. She believes that a strong sense of self-identity gives purpose to one’s life, and that that searching and striving make us better global citizens. With that hope and belief in search of an identity, Dolkar donated, An Epithet of Life- Om Mani Padme Hun, a mani stone from Tibet.
Amira Adawe was born in Mogadishu, Somalia and migrated to the U.S. eighteen years ago. She is a public health practitioner and researcher. She is currently the Executive Director of The Beautywell Project. She contributed, Angalel, a seashell that holds the memory of her grandmother and family back in Somalia.