Knowing Nature

Photo of U.S. Senator Gary Peters visiting the “Knowing Nature: Stories of the Boreal Forest” exhibition.
U.S. Senator Gary Peters visiting the “Knowing Nature: Stories of the Boreal Forest” exhibition

MSU Students Partner with the Smithsonian and MSU Museum for Impactful Collaborations

The MSU Museum achieved the honor of becoming Michigan’s inaugural Affiliate of the esteemed Smithsonian Institution in September 2001. Since then, we have collaborated on numerous joint initiatives aimed at advancing research, generating new knowledge, and enhancing public engagement. This Affiliate status provides the Museum opportunities to engage in collaborative endeavors with the Smithsonian and fellow Affiliates, fostering initiatives that benefit MSU and our state, as well as the Smithsonian national programs.

In April 2023, the MSU Museum served as the first venue to host a new exhibition from the Smithsonian titled “Knowing Nature: Stories of the Boreal Forest.” This exhibition focuses on the biodiversity and global importance of the world’s northernmost forests through first-person stories, commissioned objects, interactive experiences, and exquisite photographic and video content. Moreover, this timely exhibition integrates themes of climate change, Indigenous perspectives, and the relationship between people and nature, taking audiences on a learning journey that starts with curiosity, builds empathy, and leads to action. “Knowing Nature” offers stories of resilience, strength, and hope in a changing world.

The Smithsonian selected the MSU Museum as the inaugural venue for the exhibition’s national tour because of the research and innovation that could uniquely happen here on our campus. In collaboration with multidisciplinary teams of MSU students, the Museum took on the task of designing and implementing solutions to two challenges pinpointed by the Smithsonian. How can we make the rich content of the exhibition accessible to individuals with limited or no vision? Additionally, how can we enable visitors of all ages to engage more deeply with the exhibition’s learning objectives? The technologies piloted here by the student teams will travel with, and further inform, the Smithsonian exhibition, elevating MSU’s national profile. With this Smithsonian partnership, our students have had career-advancing learning opportunities to use their disciplinary expertise to benefit museum goers across the country.

KNOWING NATURE logo. Smithsonian Affiliate logo.






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