Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Christiana Lehmann, Printmaker, Graphic Designer, Musician


ALFRED: Christiana Lehmann has wanted to work in an art field for about a long as she can remember. She has a memory of an interest area test in which her choices indicated that she might do well if she aimed her studies toward an art field. In elementary school, for a flicker of time, she considered being a teacher but shortly realized that would be a disaster – too much talking and not enough drawing. Other than that moment of considering teaching, art is what she has pursued.
                Christiana graduated from Arlington High School, about an hour and a half north of New York City. When it came time to choose a school, she narrowed it to Pratt and Alfred and one of the things that tilted strongly toward Alfred was the Performing Arts Department.
                Christiana started flute lessons when she was about 9 and continued with flute in high school and through her 4 years in Alfred. She started playing acoustic guitar when she was 13 and spent a few semesters studying piano at Alfred. Her newest instrumental experience is with the cello which she has played for just over a year.
                She played in Symphonic Band all 4 years and has been a member of the flute choir since it started. She played flute in both Symphonic Band and Orchestra one year and then started cello lessons so played in the cello section of the orchestra this year. The cello attracted her because of the glorious sound it can make. That range of tones is so rich and full that she had to give it a try.
                Christiana’s degree will be a Bachelor of Fine Arts and she has chosen to concentrate on graphic design and printmaking. Her senior thesis show, Melodic Dissonance, will combine drawings, handmade flutes and recorded music. In this title, Christiana is the melody. It’s the music within her and the emotions that music brings to her. She is the midst of carving print blocks that reference music and the emotional aspect of music. The dissonance in the melody is the repeated stamping of the blocks in overlapping rows, columns and patterns to create new designs with the varied placements.
                All of her stamps have designs 5 lines representing the lines of the music staff. She showed me some prints that are done in gray, black and white or just black and white. Some of the stamps are just a few inches in size but she places them on the paper over and over to create huge designs and said she is never sure how the small patterns will look when they are used over and over. One large print has curved lines that reference the shape of the cut out on a cello. Stamps made in straight lines sometimes give diagonal designs or a sort of plaid. The surprising outcomes are part of the fun of printmaking.
                Christiana likes functional art and decided that her thesis show would include a collection of handmade, functional flutes. She chose to make the flutes from bamboo because it is a natural and fast growing material and thought she could get some at a garden center. Instead she had to order bundles of it from the also fast-growing but perhaps not so sustainable Amazon. Needs must.
                Early in the flute making process she discovered things about flutes and bamboo. One is that bamboo is brittle and cracks sometimes when drilled. Another is that bundles of bamboo contain some long narrow poles amid long wide poles with few being a great diameter for a flute. Another is that the head of a flute needs to be smaller in diameter than the body of the flute to be in tune.
                She starts by drilling the mouth piece hole and then gets what she calls the original note to sound true. After she successfully gets an original first note she applies mathematics to determine the placement for finger holes. She plans to have 13 flutes starting with a low D and going up the scale in half steps to the D one octave above.
                When you attend her show, if plans aren’t modified, you will see a display of her flutes amid the prints based on the line designs. You’ll hear recordings of her playing the flutes which will be blended and edited and played in a loop.
                The designs will be printed on the flutes as well as on paper. She learned that if she prints on acetate and wraps it around a flute, she can burnish the acetate to transfer the print to the bamboo flute.  
                This semester has been Christiana’s favorite time at AU. She has her thesis show work, music including both Symphonic groups and flute choir and Astronomy to more than fill her days as she thinks about finding a job in graphic arts after graduation. She’s enjoyed her time in Alfred but plans to move south toward the milder weather that her siblings live and work in, and, no offense to The Rogue Carrot, near a large grocery store.
                Senior thesis shows are always on a Saturday evening. May 5th is the date set for this year and the time is the usual 4 to 7 pm. Christiana Lehmann’s work will be in section B10 in Binns-Merrill Hall. There will be dozens of other graduating seniors showing their work on the campus and in town. Follow an excited crowd and make it into an active area where there will be labeled maps to guide you.Senior Shows are free and open to the public though parking areas are scarce.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Pollywogg Holler


   Published in Pittsburgh, 2005



Bill Castle in 2005




         At first, it was a private spot, a little family project.  Slowly, it grew and eventually commanded a page in Fodor’s Nights to Imagine:  Magical places to Stay in America


            Pollywogg Holler, as it was named, began in 1976 when Bill and Barbara Castle bought 28 acres of land between Belmont and Alfred Station, in Allegany County.  Barbara insisted that she and Bill needed to get their kids involved in a family activity.  Some ambitious families might create a tree house in the backyard, and others -- more predictable folk -- might bake some cookies.  But the Castles, with their three children, grabbed saws, chains and sledge hammers and built a cabin.
            The Castles’ log-and-stone dwelling was originally intended as a weekend retreat.  Weekdays were spent in Hornell where Bill owned a construction company.  He built bridges for New York State in his stress-filled occupation until 1983.  That’s when he suffered a heart attack and life changed.  Bill sold the company, moved with his family to their cabin and enrolled in art school.
            Bill Castle feels that he learned to think deeply while he was a student at the School of Art and Design at Alfred University.  He says that art students focus more on creative thinking than on any particular aspect of art.  Problem solving is the real work.
            When Castle entered Alfred University, the original cabin had been completed.  (Now known as the Lodge, it is used for visitor reception, accommodation, food preparation and dining.) But with a constant flood of ideas, a school full of resources, and acres of empty land, Pollywogg Holler developed a life of its own.  Castle spent a year creating his second building – a structure bursting with personality - known as the honeymoon loft and sauna.      
            One enters by way of a covered porch, which shelters an extraordinary door carved with a Castle motto -- “bathe often, never hurry” -- and an inlaid glass depiction of the earth and moon.  Roof supports are capped with four sculptured rams’ heads cast in what art students call brassy bronze (a cheap material made of melted plumbing fixtures). 
            The stone porch floor continues seamlessly inside where it wraps up one wall and surrounds the thick metal door of a firebox.  Another wood door opens to the sauna and wooden steps and a few brick footholds lead to the loft-bed with a skylight for star viewing and access to a tiny balcony overlooking an outdoor stage, where solar-powered concerts rock for special occasions.   
            The loft and sauna, with a moss roof, is near a covered well festooned with more of Castle’s carving.  Castle presented these structures as his senior show at Alfred University, the culmination of his four-years of study.  Because Pollywogg Holler morphed from private home to public lodging, this “show” has now run continuously since 1988, with people enjoying the sauna, loft and stage during company parties, weddings, birthday celebrations, family reunions, benefits and pizza-barbeque parties. 
            Castle connected the lodge to the honeymoon loft with a small bridge and a curving path.  That path now also leads to an acoustic stage facing plank benches set around a campfire pit.  Behind the benches is Bistro de Holler.  The bistro is open on the sides but sheltered with a terra cotta roof.  It is filled with Castle’s hand-hewn tables and stools, furniture with character. 
            On most warm Wednesday nights, it seems that half the town sips wine and watches cheese bubble and brown on pizzas in the wood-fired Navajo-style oven.  During parties, some private, some public, chefs bake as many as 100 of these regionally famous pizzas while pulled pork and baked beans (special recipes prepared by the Bar-B-Q Bandits) slowly roast in a converted corn chopper. 
            If music, food, wine and company aren’t enough to help you relax, you might like to have a session with Don Powell, licensed massage therapist.  He’ll tell you about his raccoon, Uncle Albert, or his skunk, Jesse, while massaging your kinks with one of his many massage techniques – Russian, medical, Shiatsu, Swedish, reflexology or old Egyptian style. 
            Behind the bistro, a crooked, covered stairway, looking like a fantasy movie set, leads to a small door and a sleeping area – the wood loft -- a place to listen to acoustic music from the stage below, to watch birds and to enjoy the view of the forest from the tree tops.
            Another narrow path, behind the acoustic stage, leads to a bathhouse/restroom where a hanging barrel dispenses heated spring water into the private, candle-lit shower for two.   In an adjoining cubicle is a composting toilet.  It’s an odor-free unit where, instead of flushing, one closes the lid and walks away.  Similar toilets and showers are located throughout the site -- small, log outhouses blending into Pollywogg’s woods.
            Positioned away from the main buildings stands the so-called “love shack.”  You can sit on one of the chairs on the covered porch or step inside to find a quilt-covered bed and a small wood stove.  Originally built by son Quentin when he was a teen in need of private space, the love shack, guests say, is quaint, private, snug and well-named.
            All of these buildings are more sculptures than dwellings and all are hidden in the woods, a full quarter-mile saunter from the road and parking areas where a 40’ wide, stainless steel geodesic dome guards Pollywogg’s entry.  
            On the other side of the dome, alongside a creek, the path to the lodge is strewn with sculptures.  Over the past two decades, Alfred University’s art students have contributed an over-sized clay toaster, a huge metal tricycle and a towering head along with myriad other clay, glass, metal or wood sculptures.  (You’ll find them on this trail and in the weaving path known as High Water Trail.)    
            The path continues past a small waterfall, rustic bridges, the honeymoon loft, both performance areas, the main lodge and the bistro.   One side trail leads to the newest structure.  A break from the log or cedar-plank style of the other buildings, this is a steel-framed dome clothed in canvas and featuring a “floating bed,” an “air chair,” and plenty of windows for star gazing.  The bed is a huge steel hoop with a woven rope base and foam mattress.  Swaying in it, one can view the fireplace, the woods, or a nearby pond where frogs, mink and heron live.  When not in use, the bed cranks up to the ceiling giving plenty of polished floor space.
            Well past the Bistro is a double-pond area being developed as an eco-resort/spa/retreat for the purpose of bringing people closer to nature.  Castle’s architectural drawings depict five cabins, each roomy enough to accommodate two couples.  As planned, these cabins will be self-sufficient with solar-based electricity, solar showers, propane heat and composting toilets.  When completed, the area will have still another wood sauna as well as a wood-fired, Japanese style hot tub.  Right now, the first cabin is just a pile of logs harvested by Castle and his 1953 Allis Chalmers tractor, but there are lean-tos ready for guests. 
            We stayed there one spring when the ponds were full of tadpoles.  Walking around the ponds to the first lean-to (called Pine Knot), my husband, Rick, and I disturbed thousands of tadpoles who turned their wide heads away from the shallow edge and thrashed furiously toward the safety of deeper water. 
            That night we lingered over dinner in the lodge  – Cornish hen stuffed with wild rice pilaf for me and Steak Florentine with Parmesan cheese, spinach, mushrooms and garlic for Rick and, after dark, retraced our steps along the quiet path, lit with torches and tea candles set in stone niches.  At Pine Knot we were warmed by a fire, serenaded by frogs, soothed by night noises and enchanted by the stars.  In the morning, we followed the sounds of an axe.  Someone was splitting wood for the stove.  Castle, meanwhile, was slicing, frying and toasting breakfast at the lodge.  
            Later in the year, we stayed in the floating bed of the dome where our night was filled with hooting owls, croaking frogs and honking geese.  If you are interested in luxury cotton or silk sheets, room service and a private Jacuzzi, this isn’t your place.  Right now, Pollywogg Holler is for hearty, outdoor folk who consider mud to be a natural part of life and who are unruffled by the sounds of porcupines, raccoons or other rustling noises. 
            Barbara Castle says the big cabins at the ponds will be the last project for Pollywogg Holler, but Bill designs as naturally as he breathes so it’s hard to imagine that he would stop building and planning.  If you take the time to visit, he’ll sip some wine and share his ideas.  None will be ordinary or predictable, but they will be interesting and chances are he’ll draw you into them.  
                                                                    - - -
Driving Directions:  Pollywogg Holler is at 6242 South Road between Interstate 86 and Route 244.  From Buffalo, take 219 South to I-86 East at Salamanca.   Exit at number 32, West Almond.  At the end of the exit ramp, go straight down hill and turn left after the blue metal building.  Follow on South Road, a gravel road, for 2.5 miles.  The Pollywogg Holler office will be in the ranch-style house on the left but continue 100 yards to the parking lot on the right.  Park, walk through the geodesic dome and follow the trail through the woods to the Main Lodge.
                                                                *
(This was published in 2005. Contact information, services and fees will likely be different.) 

Reservations:  The main lodge (the Castles now live in a house across the road), honeymoon loft and sauna, wood shed loft, dome and other buildings are available for overnight guests.  Rates start at $110 per person for dinner, lodging and breakfast.  Massages - $60 per hour.  Most meals, stressing organic ingredients, are prepared in the brick oven.  Special dietary needs can be accommodated.  Private parties for up to 100 people by arrangement.  Open all year.  Contact 585-268-5819, 800-291-9668, or click on the Web site,  www.pollywoggholler.com.
                                                                        *
Hours:  The sculpture garden is open to visitors daily from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. 
For pizza and barbeque information telephone Pollywogg Holler.
                                                                        *
Listed in:  Nights to remember: Magical Places to Stay in America by Peter Guttman, and Home Work by Lloyd Kahn Jr.

                                                                        *
Elaine Hardman, a writer and studio potter, lives in Wellsville, New York with her husband, Rick.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Molly Stansfield


ALFRED: Musical ensembles at Alfred University bring people together in cohesive, cooperative groups but the things that led the members of the groups into music couldn’t be more different. Occasionally students say that, as elementary students,, they were impressed with an older sibling’s skill and wanted to be just like them. Some students said that they started music lessons to get out of doing something else such as track or house chores. One student found his grandfather’s trumpet in a closet and that set him on his way toward music lessons. However they start, it’s always wonderful when students make time to continue playing their instruments in college and beyond.
                Molly Standsfield came to Alfred University as an experienced and confident musician and has played flute in every Symphonic Band concert over the last 4 years. She has also played in several student recitals as a developing solo flutist and in every flute choir performance. Molly’s entry into music was influenced by two relatives.
                Her paternal grandmother, Agnes, was “into music”.  This grandmother not only accompanied the choir in her high school and played in churches but also accompanied her husband’s barber shop quartet in the days before Molly joined the family. Agnes was one of the piano teachers in town and encouraged Molly to be musical.
                Fifth grade was the time that Molly could start lessons in school and her family steered her toward the flute. She had an older cousin who played flute but, after graduating high school, had no interest in keeping the flute in her life. Molly’s family felt that if the instrument was there, and free, any sensible girl would like it. Happily, Molly did.
                Molly’s Grandma Agnes was in her 80s when 5th grader Molly started playing flute. By the time Molly was flute-proficient, Agnes didn’t travel far or often but she always came to hear Molly play at Christmas Eve services so that Molly will always feel that music connects her to the memory of her grandmother. Molly’s grandmother passed away when she was in her sophomore year at AU. Following her grandmother’s lead, and not that older cousin’s, Molly plans to continue flute playing in community music groups in Maine.
                Molly said if there wasn’t a flute at the ready for her, she might have chosen to play saxophone. She took a semester of baritone sax during something called lab-band that her high school in Maine. Band-lab allowed students to give different instruments a try for a while. Molly like the sax but stayed with her flute and, during high school, the piccolo too.
                She has some good memories from playing music in high school. One Christmas she and Bryce (clarinet) and Kelcie (bassoon) were to play a woodwind trio during a band concert. Since it was Christmas they decided to festoon their instruments with bows. It may have looked great but Bryce accidentally pushed a bow into a key where it silenced the clarinet. Luckily he figured out the problem and dismissed the bow to continue performing but the next year they left the bows out of it.
                Music at AU was a plus when she was choosing a college to attend but more important was the Equestrian program and the barn. The way Molly’s paternal grandmother was “into music” her maternal grandmother, Evelyn, was “into horses”. Molly’s mom took riding lessons and tiny Molly tagged along finally starting her own riding career at age 7.  
                When visiting the Bromeley-Daggett Equestrian Center she met not prim and proper folk in formal riding gear but people in work boots and every day gear working and bonding with horses. It was her kind of horse world and she has ridden and worked there throughout her college career. She plans to keep riding when she returns to Maine where there are horses she has ridden and worked with.      
                This May, Molly will graduate with a BS in Psychology with concentrations in both Clinical and Child Psychology. She will also have minors in music and equestrian studies. Next year she will start study at the University of Southern Maine where she will earn a MS in School Counseling.
                Molly has 2 performances at the end of this semester to cap her flute experiences at Alfred University and you are invited to both. First is a student recital in which she will perform with the Alfred University flute choir directed by Caroline Sonnett scheduled for Sunday, April 15 at 3 pm in Howell Hall (the building with pillars situated next to the Carillon uphill of the King Alfred statue). The recital will also include some string ensembles.

                Molly will also perform with the Alfred University Symphonic Band on Friday, April 27 at 7:30 pm in the Miller Performing Arts Center.  As always, the concert will be free and to the public.

Sunday, April 1, 2018


Elaine a few years prior to this story. 
Sebastian and the Bunny

            My grandfather is a dim memory who died when I was five. His fuzzy picture holds a man sitting at his weathered, square table just outside the back door of the old, white house. A short, round, silent man with a pipe, Sebastian didn’t enjoy eating at a table full of noisy grandchildren so Grandma Anna served him meals under an awning at the back door. He sat with his back to the wall and surveyed his domain, a few acres of grape vines and gardens with a chicken coop, a shed and a barn.
            Sebastian taught me what real communication is. He didn’t mean to teach me anything but from him I learned that it is important for a person to check the territory around someone’s words before making a deal. It was all because of this bunny.
Grandmother Ann, the rabbit cook, standing
among her children while Grandfather
Sebastian, the rabbit eater, is seated.
Elaine's mother standing to Sebastian's
left.
            Some other family decided that taking care of a rabbit was too much trouble so they gave it away. The lucky rabbit came to live at our house, in a box in the kitchen, sharing carrots, lettuce and space with our family. My brothers and I were supposed to keep it clean and cared for but we didn’t do very well so my mother, raised in farm country, said that was where the rabbit belonged. She sold us on the idea that the bunny would go to Grandpa’s house in North Collins, NY.
            I pictured it living in the little shed next to the barn being fed and drinking fresh water and wiggling its nose in greeting when I went there. We brought the rabbit to the earthy smelling chicken house and fed it bits of grass through the fencing. Satisfied that it would be happy there, I went home with a smile.
Grandmother Anna 
            On our next visit I ran to the hutch. Empty. I asked Grandpa about it but his Italian and my English weren’t making the proper connection. Something was wrong. 
             I went for another answer and then another before collapsing in tears. The pet bunny had become rabbit stew. Grandpa’s enthusiastic thanks had nothing to do with the soft ears and cute face. The bunny had joined Grandpa at his weathered, little table behind the house, the reason for his full belly just before the silent pipe.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

SEEKING JUSTICE/CREATING BALANCE

Co sponsored by Criminal Justice Studies Program in the Division of Social Sciences,  College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Alfred University's Social Justice Studies Program.

Warr, Forsyth, Durwin
ALFRED: Students in the Alfred University Criminal Justice Institute and the Social Justice Program blend classroom learning with real world experience. This week activists from Rochester brought their world to campus with a presentation entitled Seeking Justice/Creating Balance: Police Accountability in the 21st century. The program explored a community led effort to examine and reduce excessive force by the Rochester Police Department in order to reduce community tensions, to try to save some of the $10 million budgeted annually to resolve excessive force complaints, and to develop a stronger community.
                Ted Forsyth, a 2003 graduate of AU, has spent the last decade examining, studying, reporting on and trying to expand justice in Rochester NY where he lives with his wife Ali and their child Morgan. He was joined by Pastor Nina Warr and A J Durwin, Esq. Forsyth, Warr and others established Enough Is Enough Rochester, NY (EIE) after members of the RPD dumped Mr. Warr from his wheel chair while he was waiting at a bus stop in his neighborhood. Durwin moved to Rochester in 2016 and soon began donating his time and legal skills to Enough is Enough.
                These members of EIE presented images and stories of people who have been killed, beaten, or harassed by members of the Rochester Police Department. They described the current procedure that citizens or their surviving family members must follow in presenting grievances over the force used against them. They explained their goals going forward and the detailed police accountability board procedures that other cities have developed and the impact the changes have made in those cities.
                To summarize briefly, the current system has civilians alleging excessive force present their case to a member of the police department. Between 2001 and 2016 a total of 923 allegations were made. (Note: If a civilian is knocked down, kicked, and punched that would tally as 3 allegations.)
                Of those 923 allegations, 43 were sustained after an internal investigation and the notes of the investigation were sent to a Civilian Review Board. Following this the Chief of Police sustained 16 allegations and applied sanctions to 13 of them. There is no standardization of discipline or transparency that gives civilians information about what happens as a result of their specific allegations but the city of Rochester did pay settlements $2.2 million between 2015 and 2017 and they allot $10 million per year in expectation of ongoing suits and settlements.
                EIE wants change and has written a law that they hope will be passed by the city council. In the proposed law there will be 11 members of an independent Police Accountability Board with a paid staff of one administrator and 7 investigators (one per 100 officers). Such a board would have subpoena power and would conduct hearings and would cost about 1% of the current RPD budget.
                There would be a standardized matrix of disciplinary action. This would be an attempt remove bias in disciplinary actions by having the response to an allegation be standard and to have a repeated incident weigh more heavily. It would also take the disciplinary investigation and sanction from the police department and put it in the hands of an independent board. EIE hopes to follow the lead of Oakland CA and Newark NJ in creating a progressive national model of accountability that will result in fewer lawsuits against the BPD, a greater sense of humanity and well being among officers, and more public faith in law enforcement in the city.
                AU Students were encouraged to become involved. One state-wide action in play is to repeal New York Civil Rights section 50-a  which is currently used to say that Civil Service Commissions and police accountability programs may not take disciplinary actions against any law enforcement officer.  A second campaign is to repeal Civil Law 50a which shields an officer’s discipline records.
                The presentation covered a lot of ground, much of it complex so please go to enoughisenough.rocus.org where there is a blog, a calendar of events and a contact page where you can get answers or pursue a conversation. You may note that EIE meetings are held at the Flying Squirrel Community Space. The Squirrel is an old lodge hall that was purchased by citizens who make the space available to a variety of community groups and demonstrates the long term and generous commitment many have to social justice in Rochester.

                 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Bonnie's Chicken


Bonnie’s Chicken

A Hardman Family Story

Bonnie Rollins Hardman grew up on a farm and had, of all things, a pet chicken. That chicken helped her learn responsibility, mortification and loss. 

Bonnie’s chicken liked attention. I have no idea how much attention most chickens need but Bonnie’s chicken liked to be noticed. If lonely or hungry, it would pop right up the back porch steps and pick at the kitchen door looking for her mistress.

At this time in her life, Bonnie had a number of much-resented jobs to do around the house. While Bonnie admitted that she didn’t have to sleep in the cinders, she felt that her stepmother assigned more chores to her than to her half-sisters so those duties were done without cheer. 

One Saturday while Bonnie had to sweep and clean, her chicken, watching her through the kitchen window, was particularly disgusted with being ignored. The chicken peck-peck-pecked at the kitchen door and Bonnie, annoyed, chased it off. The pecking came again and again so several times Bonnie stopped work to scoot the chicken.

Finally, totally annoyed with the chores and the chicken, she raised the broom as a weapon and ran to the door while screaming, “If you don’t stop that and get the heck off the porch, I’ll beat you with this broom!”

Eyes full of fire, she opened the back door to teach that chicken a lesson and stood face to face with the minister. Enveloped by embarrassment that was never forgotten, she ran off to hide in a closet, escaping the chicken, the minister and her stepmother.

Later that summer, when she was able to face people again, Bonnie had occasion to help make turtle soup. Someone, her cousin I think, had gone fishing and caught a very large snapping turtle. 

The turtle was perched on the chopping block for preparation after which its seemingly harmless head lay in the dirt. The chicken, knowing no fear of chopping blocks or turtles, came to investigate. It focused on a bit of pink at the turtle’s mouth and interpreting this as a snack, the chicken pecked at the dead turtle’s tongue.

In the same way that a chicken's body can retain enough life force to run after being beheaded, a turtle’s mouth can still snap. The chicken thought it would gain a treat but instead it lost its beak to the dead turtle.

Bonnie went to hide in the closet again that night because dinner was turtle soup and roasted chicken. If she were still with us, we’d know more of her childhood but at least we have the story of Bonnie’s Chicken.


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Museum of the Earth, Ithaca: Science, Art, Stories

The skeleton of Right Whale #2030
in the museum lobby area.
ITHACA: The best museums are museums of stories. Stories are teaching tools. New ideas are Velcro hooks that find the loops of known information. Learning is connecting new information to prior experience. More connections mean strong, durable memories. Stories are the connecting loops and hooks of long term memory and solid understanding.                          There’s a story in the lobby of the Museum of the Earth in the form of the remains of Right Whale #2030. Why isn’t that protected whale still in the northern Atlantic filtering 400 pounds of krill through its baleen every day? Sometime in May 1999,  the whale encountered fishing gear with a rope long enough to wrap around the massive body 3 times.      
                Cutting an exposed rope from a colossal, wild, moving body would be a tough job but “wrapped” doesn’t explain enough. The rope was so tight that it tortuously cut through 7 inches of blubber.  Repeatedly, crews of people, skilled and compassionate, found the whale and tried to rescue it. By September, the weakened female had 2 of the loops removed but the third loop remained eventually killing her. 
                When the body was dragged ashore in New Jersey in October, a crew began “flensing” or removing the skin and flesh. The bones were brought to Ithaca to be buried in horse manure where beetles and bacteria finished cleaning the skeleton.
                The whole story of Right Whale #2030 is at the museum. Her 300 remaining but endangered relatives are at risk from ship collisions, fishing gear entanglements and habitat degradation.
                 The story of the museum started with Gilbert Harris. Harris taught geology at Cornell from 1894-1934 while collecting and protecting specimens. Not trusting Cornell with his work, he created the Paleontological Research Institution to hold it, gaining a charter from the NY Board of Regents in 1936. The collection grew from his home to the current 18,000 square feet, 3 million items and 50,000 texts now in The Museum of the Earth. 
The Hyde Park Mastodon was
an old male suffering from
arthritis as seen in the damage to
leg bones.
                About 100 miles from the museum there was a story of discovery. The Lozier family in Hyde Park brought in equipment to expand their backyard pond in 1999.  A massive bone was uncovered in the mud. The Loziers thought they had a dinosaur bone but they were repeatedly dismissed because nobody has a dinosaur in their backyard.
                 Finally a professor from Baird College examined the find. While it wasn’t a dinosaur bone, it was from a mastodon, a male as it turned out and the old guy suffered from arthritis 11,000 years ago when it collapsed in a muddy pit where its bones were preserved in a tight group.




                                
Looking through the glacier exhibit toward the
Hyde Park Mastodon.
               The Discovery Channel brought the story to the country with Mastodon in Your Backyard. By 2000 the bones were assembled at The Museum of the Earth. As a bonus, it is among the most complete mastodon skeletons found.


                The museum has an extensive research facility but it also serves to inspire children. While we were there we heard high school and college aged students repeatedly asking, “Did you know...” followed by some curious fact that, actually, I hadn’t known. Periodically, areas of the museum sounded like a school cafeteria at lunch time.

                There was notable teen who had her imagination and mind captured by ammonites early on. She gave an impressive, private tour to friends exposing them to an enthusiastic and detailed vocabulary and knowledge base.
Erin Signor from South Jersey said, "10-year old
Erin would have loved this place more than I
love it now. My mother would have
never gotten me out." She is holding the
frozen part of the glacier exhibit.
            Erin Signor was visiting with friends and told me that had she been in the Museum at the age of 10, her mother might never have gotten her out. One exciting element was the frozen side of the glacier exhibit.
            For younger visitors The Dino Zone offers an enormous Stegosaurus rendered in papier mache in 1903 near a supersized sauropod nest complete with eggs to crawl over or sit on. There are dinosaur costumes to model and a nearby story nook full of books under the watchful eyes of a Quetzalcoatlus.
            For those who are slightly older, the fossil discovery zone is always open with trays of fossils free to examine, identify and take.
                Art on site includes the permanent display of 544 tiles, Rock of Ages Sands of Time, by Barbara Page as well as other murals throughout the building. There is a changing exhibition area currently hosting Mapping the Planets in Silk and Sound by Mary Edna Frasier.  
            Some might ask why we should study the past. Maybe there isn’t a hard line between past and present. Some ancient animals are still alive and have mysterious traits. The tardigrade is an aquatic micro animal found feeding on moss on every continent. The 1150 or so species of tardigrade can be seen with an amateur microscope and are said to be resilient, an understatement. 
               Tardigrads have returned from space on the outside of a capsule, surviving a vacuum, extreme radiation, and intense cold. When they sense a lack of water, tardigrades secrete a material to encapsulate their membranes so they won’t break, their proteins so they won’t unfold, and their DNA so it won’t be damaged. When safe again, they rehydrate ready to eat and reproduce even if the dormant period was more than a decade. Top that story.
Janice Brown, microbiologist, hosted vistors
at the tardigrade exhibit on February 17.

                 During our visit we saw living, eating, egg-producing tardigrades.  Can they teach us something about a process of stasis in space travel or help develop weather resistant crops? Isn’t it worth a look?
            The Museum of the Earth is a bit off the main road at 1259 Route 96 in Ithaca. Call (607) 273-6623 or find information at www.priweb.org.  Winter hours are on Wed-Sat. Admission is charged and there is no café.
                The Museum hosts a fossil event on every 2nd Saturday, 10am to Noon. Bring your fossils and funny looking rocks for identification. Sign up for fossil hunts this summer: July 1 - Hamilton, July 22 - Schoharie, August 19 – Tully. Check with the Museum of the Earth for specific locations, fees, and special events.







There are living things at the museum
including two salt water aquariums.