Yesterday members of EQLT’s Leadership Circle got a guided tour through the newly renovated Fisher Museum at the Harvard Forest in Petersham. John O’Keefe, retired Museum Director and EQLT member, shared his insights on the changes to New England forests over the past several centuries, the original goal of Dr. Fisher and Harvard University in establishing the Harvard Forest at the beginning of forestry in the US during the early 1900s, and the terrific artistry of the dioramas.
There are over 20 dioramas, basically 3′ x 3′ three dimensional depictions of a typical landscape. The first group of them recount the major forest transformations, from pre-colonial woods and the first settlement farms, to the height of agriculture in mid-1800s, farm abandonment and forest regrowth and subsequent harvesting. The sequence ends in 1930 when the dioramas were originally built.
Other dioramas depict different silvocultural strategies to weed, thin and regenerate New England’s regrowing woods. There’s also a terrific diorama of Harvard Pond. Each diorama is filled with unique details, and a scavenger hunt encourages visitors to look deeply at them all. Where is the squirrel, wood pecker, two jackets on a rock, bee hives, cattails and much more. It’s definitely worth a visit to the Fisher Museum, which is open on weekend afternoons and staffed by volunteers.
We also took a short walk on the grounds to learn a bit more about the current research at Harvard Forest and see the Witness Tree. The Witness Tree is the central character in a newly published book by Lynda V. Mapes, as she details the forest changes over the past century or so with a particular eye on how climate change is impacting the wooded landscape. The Witness Tree is a fascinating read; and we will be hosting a book discussion this fall and hope to have Lynda join us too.