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Fairbanks Exhibit Examines Changes in Arctic Landscape



Fairbanks, Alaska—If a picture is worth a thousand words, the University of Alaska Museum of the North’s latest special exhibit speaks volumes about the effects of climate change in Alaska’s Arctic. “Then & Now: The Changing Arctic Landscape” opens May 15 in the museum’s special exhibits gallery.

“A visitor to the Arctic might be struck by the apparent timelessness and constancy of the place, but that impression is misleading,” said guest curator and UAF graduate student Ken Tape.

Focusing on glaciers, vegetation and permafrost, the exhibit pairs historic photographs with recent images taken from the exact same vantage points to show changes in the arctic landscape. By comparing the photo pairs, visitors can see the nature and extent of the changes: glaciers that have receded or disappeared altogether, trees and shrubs growing where they didn’t decades earlier and topography that changed as the underlying permafrost thawed. While some photo pairs were taken 100 years apart, photos taken only 30 years apart also show dramatic changes in the landscape.

The exhibit also includes 360-degree photo panoramas by UAF researcher Matt Nolan showing several locations on Alaska’s North Slope and in the Brooks Range. Visitors can zoom in on the high-resolution images to examine vegetation and glacial ice while listening to sounds and narrative associated with each scene.

Personal narratives from Alaska Native elders show how their culture is connected to this fragile landscape. Animations show how thawing permafrost can change the landscape and how researchers use midge fly larvae from lake sediments to determine temperatures in the Arctic thousands of years ago.

Tape’s recently published book, “The Changing Arctic Landscape,” inspired the exhibit and is available at the museum store for $35. A grant from the Rasmuson Foundation supported the development of the exhibit. Doyon Utilities, Fairbanks Memorial Hospital/Denali Center, Holland America and Yukon Accounting also provided funding.

“Then & Now: The Changing Arctic Landscape” runs through Jan. 8, 2011. Admission to the special exhibit is included in the museum's general admission price: $10 for adults, $9 for seniors, $5 for youth 7-17 and free for children 6 and under. Museum members also receive free admission. The museum is open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily in summer (May 15 through Sept. 15). Information on the museum's programs and exhibits is available at 907-474-7505 and online at museum.uaf.edu.

ON THE WEB: museum.uaf.edu
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