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New Exhibit Opens at California Academy of Sciences
on August 4, 2001
San Francisco (August 2, 2001) - Russia's role in exploring California and the Pacific Northwest is the subject of a new exhibit opening August 4, 2001 at the California Academy of Sciences. For the first time since the original expeditions, Russia's Great Voyages to America: Science Under Sail 1728-1867 returns to California some of the thousands of animal and plant specimens, artifacts, illustrations and journal entries that the Russian explorers collected and created in the early 19th century.
The exhibit, which runs through January 1, 2002, includes objects from the oldest collections of Native California basketry and finery in European museums, including feathered headdresses, ear rods and a stunning abalone necklace. Also included are illustrations and descriptions of now-extinct animals including the sea cow and spectacled cormorant - made by the only scientist who ever described them.
Russia's Great Voyages, which is on loan from the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, offers many activities for families. Children and their parents are invited to operate a model of a deep-sea water sampling device actually used on one of the voyages and to take a sounding to find their way into a dangerous harbor. The interactive exhibit draws visitors into the life of the explorers - offering a glimpse of the world as they must have seen it 150 years ago. With an audio phone, visitors will hear one explorer's journal entry describing the terrifying ordeal of sailing surrounded by fog with faulty maps. Reconstructed scenes offer a peek into a scientist's onboard cabin that rolls with the ocean swells and a visit to a shore camp - all designed to feel as though the Russian explorers are just out of sight.
Visitors are invited to meet the guest curator of the exhibit, Barbara Sweetland Smith, who will sign copies of the exhibit catalogue (which is beautifully illustrated in full color with many of the objects in the exhibition) from 1:00-2:30 p.m., August 4th, outside the Academy store. Ms. Smith is an historian, writer and recent recipient of the Order of Friendship Medal awarded by President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation. The medal, which had previously never been awarded to an American scholar, was granted for her contributions to exhibitions about Russian exploration.
Major funding for the exhibit has come from the National Science Foundation, with additional planning funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Leadership gifts from the private sector include the National Bank of Alaska; Oceantrawl, Inc; Assen and Christine Nicolov; the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust; the ARCO Foundation; the Kreielsheimer Foundation; Larry and Wilma Carr; H. Willard Nagley II; and the Anchorage Museum Foundation.
The Academy will offer special lectures, programs and demonstrations to highlight aspects of the Russian legacy in the North Pacific. More information is available at the Academy's Web site www.calacademy.org.