Cuba: Nature of an Island (Exhibition)

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Exist Dates

1993 September 17 - 1994 January 3

Biographical or Historical Note

abstract
Exhibition. Opened September 17, 1993 and closed January 3, 1994. Located on Floor 2 in the Akeley Gallery at the American Museum of Natural History. Cuba: Nature of an Island, an Arthur Ross Exhibit-of-the-Month, portrayed the plant and animal life of Cuba, featured photographs, drawings, specimens, and casts of fossils, and highlighted the work of the scientists at the American Museum of Natural History and the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural in Havana.

Summary

Cuba: Nature of an Island, which portrayed the plant and animal life of Cuba, featured photographs, drawings, specimens, and casts of fossils, and highlighted the work of the scientists in the joint project of the American Museum of Natural History and the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural in Havana, who have been studying Cuba’s biodiversity since 1989. It was curated by Ross D. E. MacPhee, chairman of the Museum’s Department of Mammalogy. In the first arrangement of its kind in forty years, American and Cuban scientists collaborated to survey the island’s biology as its forests were becoming rapidly depleted. The work provided clues as to the origins of many species in the Caribbean and the extinction of many land mammals in the area (1, p. 1; 2, p. 74).

The research team included Ross MacPhee; Manuel Iturralde-Vinent, paleontologist at the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural; Alfonso Silva Lee, ecologist and naturalist from the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural; and Michael L. Smith, senior research scientist at the Center for Marine Conservation in Washington, D.C. The RARE Center for Tropical Conservation, the New York Botanical Garden, and the Association of Systematics Collections were also involved in researching Cuba’s biodiversity at this time (1, p. 2-3).

Highlights of the exhibition included (1, p. 2-3):

*Bilingual text in English and Spanish

*Fossil of extinct monkey, Paralouatta varonai

*Fragments of a 20 million-year-old sloth, the oldest fossil mammal found in the West Indies

*Photographs and illustrations of animals unique to Cuba studied or discovered by the research team, including the smallest known bird, a recently discovered pupfish, an artist’s reconstruction of Ornimegalonyx oteri, a giant flightless owl

*An original print of John J. Audubon’s ivory-billed woodpecker

Most of the photographs in the exhibition were the work of Alfonso Silva Lee. After its closing at the Museum, the exhibition went on display in the Museo Nacional de Historia (1, p. 2-3).

This is a condensed summary of the exhibition. For additional information, see Sources and/or Related Resources.

Sources

    (1) American Museum of Natural History. Press Release. "Cuba: Nature of an Island." September 1993. Special Collections Vertical Files. American Museum of Natural History Library.
    (2) “At the American Museum of Natural History.” Natural History, (September 1993).

Terms

place
New YorkExternal link
AMNH: Floor 2

Related Corporate, Personal, and Family Names

American Museum of Natural History. Akeley Gallery.
Location of exhibition 1993 September 17 – 1994 January 3 (1, p. 1)
American Museum of Natural History. Department of Mammalogy.
Related department (1, p. 1)
Expeditions to Cuba
Possibly related expeditions
Iturralde-Vinent, ManuelExternal link
Member of research team; paleontologist at the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural in Havana, Cuba (1, p. 1)
MacPhee, R. D. E.
Curator of exhibition; chairman of the Department of Mammalogy (1, p. 1)
Museo Nacional de Historia Natural (Cuba)External link
Institutional partner; exhibition on permanent display after display at American Museum of Natural History (1, p. 3)
Silva Lee, AlfonsoExternal link
Member of research team; ecologist and naturalist at the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural in Havana, Cuba; took many of the photographs in exhibition (1, p. 1-2)
Smith, Michael Leonard
Member of research team; senior research scientist at the Center for Marine Conservation, Washington D.C.; possibly “Michael L. Smith” referred to in Museum documentation (1, p. 1)

Related Resources

American Museum of Natural History. Annual Report. New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1993-1994: 6, 8, 61, 72, 85.
American Museum of Natural History photographic drawers
Repository: AMNH Special Collections [Black and white contact sheets of exhibition on view]
American Museum of Natural History vertical files
Repository: AMNH Special Collections [Photocopies of press release, pages of 1993-1994 Museum Annual Report, September 1993 issue of Natural History]
subjectOf
Cuba: Nature of an Island exhibition photographic slides. American Museum of Natural History Library Special Collections.
Date of resource: 1993
Natural history.
"At the American Museum of Natural History" (September 1993), p. 74.

Written by: Clare O'Dowd
Last modified: 2018 August 30


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