BAR HARBOR — Environmental scientist and author Catherine Schmitt will present “A History of Scientists and Artists Working Together in Acadia” in the MDI Biological Laboratory’s Kinne Library on Monday, June 20, at 5 p.m. The presentation opens the laboratory’s 2016 Art Meets Science Café series.
Schmitt will explore the role of naturalists working in region at the same time, and sometimes in partnership with, 19th-century artists. The popularity of 19th-century landscape paintings has been credited with stimulating interest in Mount Desert Island as a tourist destination. But the role of the early naturalists is less well known.
“The paintings, sketches, prints, maps and photographs that accompanied scientific reports contributed to the promotion of Mount Desert Island as a tourist attraction and to the public understanding of scientific principles,” Schmitt said.
Indeed, the founders of the park envisioned it as a laboratory for the observance of nature. One of the founders, George B. Dorr, helped realize this vision by establishing the MDI Biological Laboratory in 1921. The title of the Art Meets Science exhibit, “A Fresh Field of Life,” is drawn from remarks he made in 1916: “What a splendid and useful thing it would be if we could provide down here, in a spot so full of biologic interest and unsolved biologic problems, so rich in various beauty and locked around by the cool northern sea, a summer home, however simple, for [scientists] … to work on a fresh field of life, bird or plant or animal,” he said.
The exhibit will include observations by artists on nature – from Acadia’s scenery to the microscopic world of molecular biology. One of the goals is to highlight how the two disciplines share processes of observation, discovery and experimentation, as well as the drive to communicate a deeper understanding of the natural world.
Schmitt is the author of “Historic Acadia National Park, The Stories Behind One of America’s Great Treasures” (Lyons Press), a collection of true stories about the history of the park that was released this spring. Copies of her book will be available for sale at the event.
The Art Meets Science Cafés will be held every other Monday from June 20 to Sept. 19 (see mdibl.org/events for dates and topics) in the Kinne Library at the MDI Biological Laboratory. The Art Meets Science exhibit will open at 4:15 p.m. on the day of Schmitt’s presentation and will be available for viewing at 4:15 p.m. at all future cafés.