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A Sea of Glass: Searching for the Blaschkas' Fragile Legacy in an Ocean at Risk

Thursday, October 27, 2016 at 4:00pm

Mann Library, Stern Seminar Room 160
Cornell University Mann Library, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA

Bohemian glassblower Leopold Blaschka began sculpting models of underwater creatures in the 1860s, a time of great technological innovation in the industrializing world. These intricate sculptures of marine life document the life of oceans not yet touched by climate change and other widespread impacts of human activity. Leopold and his son, Rudolf, handmade about 10,000 marine sculptures, each one rendered in minute detail. 

In A Sea of Glass (University of California Press; 2016), Drew Harvell, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and curator of the Blaschka Marine Invertebrate Collection at Cornell,  embarks on a journey of a lifetime. Taking readers along as she dives beneath the ocean's surface to a rarely seen world, she reveals the surprising and unusual biology of some of the most ancient animals on earth. Recounting travels from Italy to Indonesia over many years, her book is part natural history and part memoir.  

How are the astonishingly beautiful creatures rendered so brilliantly in glass by the Blaschkas over a century ago faring in the beleaguered oceans of our 21st century world? In a Chats in the Stacks book talk at Mann Library,  Harvell presents some of the wondrous sights and sobering lessons of her exploration. 

A Sea of Glass received the 2016 National Outdoor Book Award (NOBA) in the Natural History Literature category. The annual award recognizes the best in outdoor writing and publishing.

This book talk will open Mann Library's fall 2016 exhibit program, "Exploring a Sea of Glass: A Celebration of Art, Biology and History," which includes displays in the Mann lobby, Mann Gallery (2nd floor) and Top Shelf Gallery (1st floor). At 5pm, immediately following Prof. Harvell's talk, there will be an exhibit opening reception in the Mann Gallery.   A concurrent exhibition "Fragile Legacy" is also viewable at The Corning Museum of Glass through January 8, 2017.  

The “Sea of Glass” program kicks off Mann’s yearlong series celebrating fieldwork and scientific exhibitions. Professor Harvell's book talk and related exhibit programming at Mann Library is supported by the Mary A. Morrison Public Education Fund, the Mann Library Excellence Fund, and the Bondareff Family Fund for Mann Library. 

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