About this Exhibit


In an instant of geologic time, human beings have exploded into a geologic force, altering the planet’s oceans and fresh waters, atmosphere, soils, plants, and animals. The widespread recognition that we have had a global-scale impact on the environment is relatively new, as is the idea that we have a special responsibility to the future and to other life forms. The Anthropocene represents an attempt to acknowledge the scale of our impact on the planet and to face the implications of that realization.

Originally coined by Nobel Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen, the term Anthropocene suggests that human beings have had such a large impact on the global environment that we have crossed the boundary into a new geologic epoch—from Holocene to Anthropocene.

A proposal to rename our geologic epoch is accordingly being considered by a working group of the International Commission on Stratigraphy. The working group includes one of the curators of this exhibit (Professor Daniel Richter of Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment) and represents the culmination of intense scientific debates in books, conferences, and exhibits such as this one.

This exhibit considers the human record on planet Earth and asks you to consider the implications of labeling our geologic epoch the Anthropocene. What difference do you think the adoption of the term Anthropocene would make to you, and to all forms of life on the planet?


We are grateful to the many individuals who have collaborated on this exhibition. Those who loaned us materials for display can be seen on the map. We would also like to acknowledge Evan Wald (IT), Mark Zupan (graphic design), Jennifer Blomberg (exhibit installation and preparation), Aaron Welborn (editing) and Michael Daul (IT) for their contributions.