history of conservation


The Brain Scoop
Wolves can be… Coy

Wolves and humans have a prehistoric relationship - and it’s complicated, to say the least. Between the 1600s and the mid 1960s, nearly every wolf in the lower 48 states was completely wiped out; the eradication of wolves was largely encouraged by government-issued bounties and extermination programs, carried out by farmers and ranchers who saw wolves as threats to their livestock and families.

But after the gray wolf received protection by the Endangered Species Act in1974 and populations started once again spreading across the United States, a funny thing began happening. The wolves - unable to find and therefore breed with other wolves due to scarcity of individuals - ended up breeding with coyotes instead.

And now, there exists a huge amount of confusion about some of these populations; wolves and coyotes are hybridizing at a rate faster than can be detected through scientific studies or can be managed by wildlife conservation laws and programs. How much DNA of an endangered species does an organism need to have before we consider it endangered itself? How can we enforce laws and regulations to manage - or restrict management - of population growth? 

We spent four months working on this video and it’s the most comprehensive episode we’ve ever made for The Brain Scoop. We even got the grossometer back in there. I hope you like it- and please do share! 

“White terrorism has shaped the U.S. in countless ways, seen and unseen, for years. But in their rush to paint Muslims and immigrants as the most pressing threat to Americans' safety, many whites and conservatives refuse to admit that homegrown white terrorism has been a threat for much longer — and with a much higher death toll.”

— Zak Cheney-Rice, Kansas shooting echoes a history of white terrorism that conservatives won’t admit exists

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Have you ever wondered how a museum goes about spring cleaning? Here we see our Gallery Maintenance team members Hilary Wang and Alisa Lenander scaling the heights of our galleries to vacuum our stunning Persian rugs. Using low suction vacuums and nozzles handmade for conservation, the team regularly cares for our rug and tapestry collections, some of which are several hundred years old. In this way, we keep them in stable condition while on display and limit the accumulation of dust.



Over 127,000 United States citizens were imprisoned during World War II. Their crime? Being of Japanese ancestry.

President Roosevelt signed an executive order on February 19, 1942, ordering the RELOCATION of all Americans of Japanese ancestry to CONCENTRATION CAMPS in the interior of the United States.

Evacuation orders were posted in JAPANESE-AMERICAN communities giving instructions on how to comply with the executive order. Many families sold their homes, their stores, and most of their assets. They could not be certain their homes and livelihoods would still be there upon their return. Because of the mad rush to sell, properties and inventories were often sold at a fraction of their true value.

Until the camps were completed, many of the evacuees were held in temporary centers, such as stables at local racetracks. Almost two-thirds of the interns were NISEI, or Japanese Americans born in the United States. It made no difference that many had never even been to Japan. Even Japanese-American veterans of World War I were forced to leave their homes.

Ten camps were finally completed in remote areas of seven western states. Housing was spartan, consisting mainly of tar-paper barracks. Families dined together at communal mess halls, and children were expected to attend school. Adults had the option of working for a salary of $5 per day. The United States government hoped that the interns could make the camps self-sufficient by farming to produce food. But cultivation on arid soil was quite a challenge.

Evacuees elected representatives to meet with government officials to air grievances, often to little avail. Recreational activities were organized to pass the time. Some of the interns actually volunteered to fight in one of two all-Nisei army regiments and went on to distinguish themselves in battle.

On the whole, however, life in the relocation centers was not easy. The camps were often too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. The food was mass produced army-style grub. And the interns knew that if they tried to flee, armed sentries who stood watch around the clock, would shoot them.

FRED KOREMATSU decided to test the government relocation action in the courts. He found little sympathy there. In KOREMATSU VS. THE UNITED STATES, the Supreme Court justified the executive order as a wartime necessity. When the order was repealed, many found they could not return to their hometowns. Hostility against Japanese Americans remained high across the West Coast into the postwar years as many villages displayed signs demanding that the evacuees never return. As a result, the interns scattered across the country.

In 1988, Congress attempted to apologize for the action by awarding each surviving intern $20,000. While the American concentration camps never reached the levels of Nazi death camps as far as atrocities are concerned, they remain a dark mark on the nation’s record of respecting civil liberties and cultural differences.

Jackson Pollock’s Echo: Number 25, 1951 is back on view at MoMA as part of Jackson Pollock: A Collection Survey, 1934–1954 after its recent visit to the Dallas Museum of Art. Find out what our conservation department learned from studying Echo

[Shown: Jackson Pollock. Echo: Number 25, 1951. 1951. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2016 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Installation view of Jackson Pollock: A Collection Survey, 1934–1954 at The Museum of Modern Art, New York (November 22, 2015–March 13, 2016). Photograph: Yan Pan]

Check out the newest addition to the Prehistoria Natural History Centre - a shed antler from a Père David’s deer! Currently listed as “Extinct In The Wild”, these deer inhabited the marshlands of the Chinese subtropics.

Driven to the brink of global extinction (and complete extinction in the wild) by land reclamation and hunting, their species was saved largely by the efforts of Herbrand Russell (the 11th Duke of Bedford). He purchased the few remaining individuals from European zoos and formed a protected herd at Woburn Abbey.

In 1985 reintroductions began in Chinese nature reserves and today they number roughly 2000 individuals in the wild. Others can still be found in captivity around the world. It is now only a matter of time until their IUCN status is upgraded (slightly) to “Critically Endangered”.

I’d like to thank the awesome folks at Papanack Zoo for this donation to the Prehistoria Natural History Centre! This antler will be mounted on our Wall Of Extinction exhibit.

1920s Exhibit on Conservation

by Bonnie Isaac

In looking through museum archives, I found a photograph that intrigued me. The image (above) looked very similar to the spring wildflower diorama in Botany Hall, but different in that there was litter on the ground. After some digging around, it turns out that our curators and exhibit designers here at the museum were way ahead of the curve on conservation awareness.

The 32nd annual report of Carnegie Museum from 1929 states:

“One of the ideas underlying the preparation of this group was that of stressing the importance of preserving our wildflowers. In order to present this idea without marring the natural appearance of the main exhibit, there were prepared two miniature exhibits, exact duplicates of the larger one, but showing on the one hand the desecration of such a beautiful spot by thoughtless and destructive picnickers, and, on the other hand, the bleak devastation wrought by fire. These miniature exhibits, one placed on each side of the main exhibit, have attracted much attention and undoubtedly help to serve the desired educational purpose.”

Smokey Bear was created in 1944, and the first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970. Carnegie Museum of Natural History was raising these concerns in 1928!

The spring wildflower diorama today

Bonnie Isaac is the collection manager in the Section of Botany at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Museum employees are encouraged to blog about their unique experiences and knowledge gained from working at the museum.


Thinking of Pépère Hug today, on the 100th Anniversary of the United States entering World War One.

My great grandfather was an immigrant. Born in Alsace at a time when it was conquered by the German Empire, he was constantly harassed for being both French and German ethnically. He moved to the United States in 1910, when he was only 18 with his pregnant wife, settling in Rhode Island. A short six years later he as a soldier in the U.S. Army returned to Europe to fight in the Great War against the very nation that he was born in, and the one that had oppressed him so. To have done so much at such a young age is awe inspiring. His story is that of the American Dream, and supreme love for the Nation who had given him so much.

I love you Pépère Hug, and respect the millions of other Yanks who fought and bled “Over There”.

Why do white people get the blame for slavery when virtually every race in human history engaged in the slave trade?

Why do white people get the blame for slavery when white people were enslaved by Arabs?

Why do white people get the blame for slavery when they were the first in the world to legally end slavery?

Why do white people get the blame for slavery when white people risked their lives to help free black slaves from their Arab captors?

Why do white people get the blame for slavery when hundreds of thousands of white Americans died in a civil war partly to end slavery?

Why do white people get the blame for slavery when there are still 46 million people enslaved today – none of them in white countries?