Iowa Institute of Human Genetics

What does it mean to be human?

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The University of Iowa Pentacrest Museums—the Old Capitol Museum and the UI Museum of Natural History—in collaboration with the University Lecture Committee and the Iowa Initiative in Human Genetics will host a series of programs March 29th through April 1st. “What Does it Mean to Be Human?” will highlight recent research and discoveries on the history and processes of human evolution. Events are free and open to the public (unless otherwise noted*).

The weekend-long program will begin at the Old Capitol Museum with an exhibit opening of “Gene Stories: DNA Portraits of a Diverse Community” by artist Lynn Fellman in the Pentacrest Museums Gallery for Arts, Humanities & Sciences. This temporary exhibit depicts human ancestries and prehistoric migration routes out of Africa. The opening will be followed by the University Lecture by Nina Jablonski: ‘In Living Color: The Evolution and Meanings of Human Skin Color.’ Jablonski, an anthropologist who studies primate evolution, hominid bipedalism, and paleoecology, is especially renowned for her studies of the evolution of human skin coloration.

“What Does It Mean To Be Human?” will continue with additional events throughout the weekend. On Friday afternoon, anthropologist Richard (Rick) Potts—who heads the human origins department at the Smithsonian Institution Museum of Natural History—will give an academic lecture “The Challenges of Becoming Human: Evolution in an Era of Dramatic Climate Change” in Kollros Auditorium (101 Biology Building East). Programming continues on Friday evening with an event for teens, on Saturday with a series public lectures and educator workshop, and on Sunday, culminates with a documentary film.

“This series of exciting programs will highlight important advances in our understanding of the origins and evolution of our own species”, says John Logsdon, Pentacrest Museums Director, “the speakers are top-notch and the events will be thought-provoking and fun. We are especially enthusiastic to feature the inspiring topic of human evolution as part of our ongoing Directors’ Series at UIMNH”

Here is a rundown of ‘What Does it Mean to be Human?’ events:

Thursday, March 29

  • 6:00 pm Exhibit opening: “Gene Stories: DNA Portraits of a Diverse Community” Pentacrest Museums Gallery for Arts, Humanities & Sciences, Old Capitol Museum
  • 8:00-9:00 pm University Lecture: Nina Jablonski, Penn State University
    “In Living Color: The Evolution and Meanings of Human Skin Color”
    Senate Chamber, Old Capitol Museum

(Note: Museum of Natural History and Old Capitol Museum will remain open until 9:00 pm)

Friday, March 30

  • 2:30—3:45 pm Academic lecture: Richard Potts, Smithsonian Institution “The Challenges of Becoming Human: Evolution in an Era of Dramatic Climate Change”
    Kollros Auditorium 101 Biology Building East
  • 5:15—6:00 pm Gallery talk: Lynn Fellman, Fellman Studio “Our Inner Neandertal”
    Supreme Court Chamber, Old Capitol Museum
  • 6:00—9:00 pm Teenage program (Grades 6-up): “Science After Dark: Human Origins”
    Museum of Natural History, Macbride Hall [pre-registration required*]

Saturday, March 31

  • Public lectures (Macbride Auditorium)
    10:00 am Richard Potts: “What’s Hot in Human Origins”
    10:45 am Nina Jablonski: “How Skin Color Evolved & Why It Matters”
    11:30 am Briana Pobiner: “Behind the Scenes of a Smithsonian Archaeological Dig”

Educator workshop (Museum of Natural History; Macbride Hall)
[free to educators, limited space available, preregistration required*]

  • 9:00—9:30 am Registration and refreshments
  • 9:30—10:00 am “Evolution 101” orientation and meet & greet
  • 10:00—12:15 pm Public lectures
  • 12:15—1:00 pm Lunch
  • 1:00—1:45 pm Skull activity
  • 1:45—2:30 pm Resources for teaching human evolution
  • 2:30 —3:00 pm Discussion and Q&A session
  • 3:00—3:30 pm Guided Tour of exhibit: “Gene Stories: DNA portraits …”

Sunday, April 1

  • 2:00 pm: Movies@MNH: “Journey of Man: The Story of the Human Species”
    (Macbride Auditorium)

Programs are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted. *To register for the teen program “Science After Dark” or the educator workshop, please call (319) 335-0606 or email Sarah-Horgen@uiowa.edu.

‘What Does it Mean to be Human?’ is sponsored by the University of Iowa Pentacrest Museums, Old Capitol Museum and the UI Museum of Natural History, the University Lecture Committee, and the Iowa Institute of Human Genetics. For more information visit the UI Museum of Natural History website.