Natural History Museum of Utah Launches Exhibit of 16,000 Butterflies

16,000 butterflies were recently donated to a one-day exhibit at the Natural History Museum of Utah. The specimens were provided by family members of the late Dr. James Pearce. Pearce, a scientist and resident of Utah, spent 50 years of his life studying and collecting them across the globe.

“He loved to be outside, he loved nature, he was a scientist,” said Virginia, his wife. “So from the time when he was a little boy, he was collecting and classifying and spreading and developing this wonderful hobby.”

“It is truly an honor that the Pearce family trusts us with his remarkable collection,” said the museum’s Christy Bills. “Documentation of the butterflies along the Wasatch Front is not that extensive. So, the breadth and depth of the collection, in terms of time and specimens, helps us tell the story of our ecosystem here in the valley.”

The museum explained that Pearce’s studies expose the local butterfly population and its significant transformation over the past 30 years, as a result of reduced plant life and increased construction.

The exhibit will be held on Wednesday, May 9th, from 4 till 9 p.m.

San Diego Maritime Museum Builds Spanish Galleon

The San Diego Maritime Museum is building a real-life replica of a Spanish galleon from the 16th century. The goal is to create a ship similar to the San Salvador,  the flagship of explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s small fleet, which was the first to brave the waters of North America’s  west coast.

During the Keel Laying Ceremony last year, Chairman of the Board of Port Commissioners, explained: “One of the missions of the port is to activate the waterfront, to give people a chance to come out and enjoy this great real estate that we have here in San Diego. The port’s really happy to host and be a landlord  for two of the great waterbourn museums in the world. We have the Midway, which tells the story of the Navy, and we have this great Maritime Museum that tells the story of Maritime here at the West Coast and America.”

Juan Rodriguex Cabrillo sailed into what is now the San Diego port. “It is historically one of the great sea ports in all of history, and keeping with that heritage is very important,” said Maritime Museum Executive Director Ray Ashley. He added that to create the galleon, the designers studied old drawings, contracts and even shipwrecks.

The port has other historical value besides its impact on the region’s economy. It was the first place of contact between Europeans and the native Kumeyaay.

Anthony Pico, tribal chairman of the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay, spoke at the event as well. He said: “We all understand that the first meetings throughout this country between your ancestors and mine was a tragic one. But those are times that have gone by, and with this century is a new time. This is a new time for partnerships, it’s a new time to integrate and to learn from one another.”

The building of the Spanish Galleon is a way to celebrate the development of the region and its peoples, as well as to expose the new generation to the areas rich history and educate them about their past.


Morrill Hall Launches “Meteorites and Minerals” Exhibit

Amethyst Cathedral Pair

This past weekend, a new “Meteorites and Minerals” exhibit was launched at Morrill Hall on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln City campus.

The event curator, Professor Robert Joeckel of the School of Natural Resources, explained that the exhibit was inspired by Roger Pabian, a geologist of the Conservation and Survey Division of the school.

Pabian, a dedicated rock, gem and fossil collector, passed away two years ago at the age of 75, and the new exhibit was established in part to commemorate him.

Joeckel said: “When Roger passed away, I felt somewhat obligated to take over.” He added that some of the minerals from the collection have a direct relation to everyday life. “The one that is most prevalent is the mineral fillers that make products what they are,” he explained. “Synthetic rubbers and plastics have a lot of mineral material in them.”

Joeckel continued, explaining his hopes that the exhibit would lead people to consider materials and their effect on daily life. “Our national security and our everyday lives depend on a flow of raw materials from the solid earth.”

Some of the minerals, however, are expensive and rare. One of the exhibit’s new purchases is the “Amethyst Cathedral Pair,’ a meteorite containing a big amethyst crystal.

According to University Museum Associate Director Mark Harris, Morrill Hall has never hosted an exhibit as impressive as this. It took over a year to organize, and the items on display were collected through various means. Some were loaned by private collectors, while others were purchased with the help of a Lancaster Country Visitors Improvement Fund grant.

Harris added that he was ecstatic about the new display. “The sheer beauty will blow people’s minds!” he said.


Discovery Takes Off on Last Journey to New Home

Discovery, the oldest surviving space shuttle of NASA’s fleet, is about to embark on her last journey- to the Smithsonian Institution.

Discovery’s maiden voyage was launched in 1984, and she has traveled to outer space 39 times since then. Her experience makes her the number one shuttle in history, completing more missions in our solar system than any other.

Discovery’s feats include delivering the Hubble Space Telescope to orbit; connecting with Mir, the Russian space station with the first female shuttle pilot; being the first U.S. spaceship to launch a Russian cosmonaut; boosting shuttle flights after the Challenger and Columbia tragedies; and returning John Glenn to orbit.

Discovery will arrive at the Smithsonian’s hangar via a modified jumbo jet, after a farewell flight over Cape Canaveral and Washington D.C. Security officers, firemen, shuttle workers and, of course, Discovery’s last astronaut crew all gathered at Kennedy Space Center to say their goodbyes.

“It’s good to see her one more time, and it’s great that Discovery is going to a good home. Hopefully, millions of people for many, many years to come will go see Discovery,” Steven Lindsey, the last astronaut to command the shuttle, said emotionally. “It’s also sad…it’s sad to see that the program is over.”

Discovery will replace Enterprise, the spaceship prototype that was used only in landing tests over four decades ago. Enterprise will go on display in New York’s Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum.

Stephanie Stilson, a NASA manager, said “To see her like this is quite an amazing site. We’re finally here.” She added that it’s been almost exactly one year since Discovery’s last mission.

Still, “there’s no denying the sadness associated with it,” according to another of Discovery’s last crew.

Victoria and Albert Museum to Launch Hollywood Costume Exhibit

London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is planning a new exhibit called “Hollywood Costume” which aims to boost appreciation of costume design and similar behind-the-scenes crafts.

The gallery, consisting of three sections, will utilize film clips, projection and other forms of staging in order to display the costumes in their most realistic contexts. Legendary directors, designers and actors such as Martin Scorsese and Alfred Hitchcock will provide interviews, and Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro will give personal explanations on the importance of costume in building characters.

The exhibit will feature more than one hundred famous costumes, including the blue and white pinafore from “The Wizard of Oz,” Vivien Leigh’s green curtain dress from “Gone with the Wind,” and Audrey Hepburn’s black Givenchy from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” The featured outfits will range from Charlie Chaplain’s silent films, to looks from “Titanic,” to more modern costumes from films like “Avatar”.

Ann Roth, an Academy Award-winning costume designer, recently discussed the art with the exhibit’s senior guest curator Deborah Nadoolman Landis. Landis worked in costume design as well, and now leads the David C. Copley Center for Costume Design at UCLA.

She explained: “Our directors depend on us to create these characters. I hate to say this but we are really looking for truth in that character.”

Roth also has experience in the field, having done costume design for films including “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Midnight Cowboy.” She added that her and her team are much more enthusiastic about working with actors who hope to develop their character, as opposed to “movie stars” who maintain an image with demands like “I don’t wear yellow.”

She added, “Meryl Streep is of course perfection. We can stand in a fitting room and by an hour into it, there are 14 half pairs of earrings, waist-cinchers, shoes with heels, shoes without heels, telephone books to put on the heels, dressmakers, someone to take notes, a hairdresser. It’s sweaty and tiresome. There’s a three-way mirror that she’s looking into.”

Roth explained that eventually “the character happens and there’s no controlling it. Once that happens, you know what to do.”

Approaches, Opinions and Debates on the Kony 2012 Video

Kony 2012 Campaign Poster

For those of you who live on another planet and have not yet seen the Kony 2012 video, which, in a matter of days, has become one of the most  viral media campaigns in history, do so now.

The thirty minute video uses Hollywood-quality effects and digital media tools to expose the plight of children in Uganda, revealing the war crimes and horrors they have suffered at the hands of LRA leader Joseph Kony. The Invisible Children sensation has triggered worldwide awareness, donations, support and of course, controversy.

Before focusing on the content itself, I wanted to point out the unmistakable ad-like ending of the clip, which encourages viewers to purchase the ‘Action Kit’ that includes bracelets, posters etc. The bracelets themselves are aimed at collecting more contributers; with an i.d. number on each one that unlocks the website and allows you to ‘join the mission’, as well as an extra one to share with a friend. Oh, and by the way, if you donate money through TRI, you can have the Action Kit for free.

That said, the campaign’s message is certainly admirable. Joseph Kony did commit the crimes stated in the video, and has been the source of terror throughout Uganda for many years. His actions, as part of the LRA, left long-lasting scars on the Ugandan people, and should not be ignored or forgotten. Besides, raising society to a more idealistic, more involved level is never a bad thing, and the uproar across the globe has been inspiring.

Still, reactions have been mixed. Numerous activists, bloggers, journalists and citizens of Uganda have lashed out at the video for its flashy style, pure emotional assault, and mostly accurate, though highly misleading, content. For example, Kony has not been active in Uganda for nearly a decade, nor has he been seen in over six years. The LRA still causes tremendous suffering, but has ventured outside of Uganda, and numbers at most in the hundreds.

Liz Wainwright, a photojournalist working in Uganda, shared her experiences and expressed her respect for Invisible Children. She did say, however, that “Most of the people working for Invisible Children are media professionals not development professionals. That’s important, but you need the expert input. It’s hard, I’m caught in the middle; I do admire them. They are having a great impact in northern Uganda….But then I don’t agree in the film itself. It was a little self-indulgent, emotive…”

Passionate writers have addressed this topic relentlessly over the past few weeks. Amber Ha, a blogger who focuses on similar issues worldwide, addressed Jason Russel of Invisible Children in a recent post.

She wrote: “Last year I went to Gulu, Uganda, where Invisible Children is based, and interviewed over 50 locals.  Every single person questioned Invisible Children’s legitimacy and intention. Every single person. If anything, it seemed the people saw Invisible Children as a bigger threat than Joseph Kony at the time. Why is it the very people you are trying to “help” feel more offense than relief with your aid?”

She addressed several other issues that have been expressed by Ugandan natives as well, including the dramatically simplified conflict, the inevitably violent results, and the glorifying of the American activists, as opposed to the Ugandan people.

As I mentioned above, Ha is not alone in her approach. For at least half a decade, Northern Uganda has been subject to a precarious, but slowly stabilizing, peace. Many believe that the Invisible Children’s new video, along with the U.S. military involvement, will shatter the quiet and provoke a fresh wave of attacks. The Ugandans still suffer from the aftermath of Kony’s actions, both physically and psychologically, but the situation is complex.

Michael Wilkerson, a journalist who has reported from and lived in Uganda, wrote: ““It would be great to get rid of Kony.  He and his forces have left a path of abductions and mass murder in their wake for over 20 years….” He concluded, however, with a statement saying “it is unclear how millions of well-meaning but misinformed people are going to help deal with the more complicated reality.”

Ugandan blogger and journalist Rosebell Kagumire posted a video response to the Kony 2012 video, revealing another reason for aggravation which likely represents the widespread feelings of Northern Ugandans:

Several other video reponses have been broadcast on YouTube, Facebook and other social media platforms, and the topic is heavily debated on every major news site today. What do you think?