Over the past three hundred years New England's landscape has been transformed. The forests were cleared; the land was farmed intensively through the mid-nineteenth century and then was allowed to reforest naturally as agriculture shifted west. Today, in many ways the region is more natural than at any time since the American Revolution. This fascinating natural history is essential background for anyone interested in New England's ecology, wildlife, or landscape.
In New England Forests through Time these historical and environmental lessons are told through the world-renowned dioramas in Harvard's Fisher Museum. These remarkable models have introduced New England's landscape to countless visitors and have appeared in many ecology, forestry, and natural history texts. This first book based on the dioramas conveys the phenomenal history of the land, the beauty of the models, and new insights into nature.
Eighty years ago, before virtual reality, before cinematic fantasies, Richard T. Fisher, then director of the Harvard Forest, and Ernest Stillman, a philanthropist, created a state-of-the-art display to try to explain the changes that occurred in New England over time. This book is both a historical document, giving a sense of how the science of forestry some 75 years ago understood the extent of man's impact on the environment, and a scientific synopsis of our current understanding of the ecological effects of agriculture and urbanization.
In the museum at the Harvard Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts, are 23 large dioramas showing how that land looked at various periods during the past 300 years. This book displays all the dioramas in color for the first time, and the accompanying text interprets the environmental drama they exquisitely depict. Today, one sees, the region is in many ways more natural than at any time since the Revolution.
The authors do a good job weaving the text with photographs and details from the dioramas to interpret the dynamic landscapes and the consequences of wholesale land-clearing, farm abandonment, and unchecked logging on the hillsides of central New England.
Using photographs and details from the dioramas, the authors describe the region's natural history, and interpret its consequences in terms of modern conservation issues. Anyone who sees the book will surely develop a longing to visit or revisit the museum and its dioramas in the near future.
Over the past 300 years, New England landscape has shifted from forest to field and back again. This book presents this natural and human history through photos of the remarkable dioramas at Harvard's Fisher Museum woven together with a lively, informed narrative.
- 80 pages
- 10 x 8 inches
- Harvard University Forest
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