Thursday, September 14, 2006

ice museums


Further notes on preservation:
And how, you ask, will the scientists immortalize the world's melting ice caps? Animals can be stuffed, plants pickled, but the death of the ice cap is different. As ice melts, it changes from solid to liquid, thereby losing the endangered form we seek to preserve.The death of an ice cap is quiet and ordourless. It's a death that's void of a perservable carcass. We can't exactly move the glaciers, keep them frozen, lable them, and put them on display, can we? You wonder if we'll ever have ice museums-- artifical arctic landscapes that you can walk through wearing snowsuits. You imagine giant freezers with stuffed polar bears standing stoically on ice ridges.

A few months back you finished reading a book called The Ice Museum, by Joanna Kavenna. It suddenly hits you how misleading this title is. In x number of years, this book will be confused for a kind of glacier encyclopedia. People will expect that it aims to preserve the notion of ice caps in the way a museum would-- photographs, maps, descriptions, lore, ecological details/history, human-related history, and relevant science. But instead this book is about chasing and preserving the legend of Thule-- a land of ice that disappeared before it was ever officially discovered. Much of the book details Kavenna's travels in Iceland which she speculates, is the very fabled land that was once called Ultima Thule by the arctic explorers of previous eras. Its a fascinating story, with a distinct theme of preservation, but it doesn't answer the question of how scientists will manage to curate the ice caps.


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