U.S. and Cuban Natural History Museums Form Closer Ties
By: Alfredo Boada Mola
The prestigious New York Natural History Museum is interested in establishing closer ties with Cuba through research, education and museum curation programs relating to the extraordinary biodiversity of the Caribbean island.
Doctor Ana Luz Porzencanski, Biodiversity and Conservation director of the American Natural History Museum told Cubaplus in Havana that “we would like to continue to build upon longstanding ties with the National Museum of Cuba”.
The expert recently attended a symposium of natural history museums in the Cuban Capital’s Palace of Conventions.
“The Natural History Museum of Cuba has, throughout its own history, played a fundamental part in bringing together specialists of the highest caliber who engage in international collaborations and contribute to research on a worldwide basis,” said Dr. Porzencanski.
She added that their publications do not relate exclusively to Cuban material but are also of interest to the global scientific community, maintaining international collaborations and playing a key role in educating about Cuba’s extraordinary biodiversity, through their exhibitions and educational programs.
She noted how “in spite of the significant longstanding challenges it faces, the museum continues to be an institution which is vital, creative and essential to Cuban society.”
Dr. Porzencanski highlighted the commitment and dedication of the professionals at the museums to society, learning, education and the conservation of such institutions.
During the course of the symposium, the executive of Uruguayan origin emphasized the cultural heritage value of the collections, explaining that their practical value can enrich the development of new investigation methods.
Specimen collections have today become resting places for environments of the past, she added. As such they are records of genetic material and changes in the Earth’s ecosystems that allow us to undertake research unimaginable ten years ago to better understand what is happening in our world’s ecosystems, for instance the advances of invasive non-native species.
She explained that the American Natural History Museum of New York, an independent institution which she called “spiritually humble,” manages an important 33 million piece portfolio of scientific specimens and artifacts exhibited in 45 permanent exhibition halls.
She said that amongst their current temporary exhibitions there is one dedicated to natural disasters and understanding the meteorological aspects of cyclones and tornadoes. Another special exhibition, “Life on the edge” demonstrates the unique adaptations of certain organisms to life in extreme conditions.
Dr. Ana Luz Porzencanski pointed out that over the past 10 years, 250,000 school children have benefited from the institution’s free educational programs.