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"Mannahatta/Manhattan: A Natural History of New York City" Takes Visitors 400 Years Back in Time
Mannahatta’s ecological landscape. Credit: © Markley Boyer, The Mannahatta Project, Wildlife Conservation Society.

NEW YORK, NY.- The mountain lions, black bears, heath hens, passenger pigeons, meandering streams, oysters, shell middens, and other natural phenomenon, as well as the native people who populated the densely forested island known as Mannahatta prior to the arrival of Europeans, will be the focus of a revelatory exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York May 20 through October 12, 2009. Mannahatta/Manhattan: A Natural History of New York City , the first exhibition of its kind, is spearheaded by Eric Sanderson, Ph.D., and organized in partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Society. It will present a rare vision of the present-day metropolitan area and its often overlooked natural history, using the latest techniques in computational geography and visualization to simulate the wilderness that thrived for centuries before 400 years of building transformed the area. Dr. Sanderson’s book, Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City (Abrams, 2009), from which the exhibition is drawn, will be available in the Museum Shop and through national booksellers ($40).

Susan Henshaw Jones, Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum of the City of New York , commented: “This city was once a lush, green, quiet, and wooded place. Had that natural wilderness remained—had our spectacular built environment never materialized—this island would be a park as diverse and awe-inspiring as Yellowstone . Mannahatta/Manhattan investigates that natural landscape even as it celebrates the systems that make New York ’s transformed environment work today.”

Organized in conjunction with two other exhibitions to observe the quadricentennial of Henry Hudson’s epic 1609 voyage of discovery, Mannahatta/Manhattan will use digital technology to portray the quiet, wooded “island of many hills” that was home to over 55 different ecosystems and thousands of species that thrived over the millennia. Visitors will experience the abundance and diversity of the city’s original natural state undiminished by the dramatically increased human footprint. The two other exhibitions on view are

· Amsterdam/New Amsterdam: The Worlds of Henry Hudson, presented in collaboration with the National Maritime Museum Amsterdam/Nederlands Scheepvaartmuseum Amsterdam and the New Netherland Project, Albany; this exhibition traces the development of the tiny settlement founded at the southernmost tip of what is now Manhattan and the emergence of distinctively Dutch culture, politics, and society in New Amsterdam;

· Dutch Seen: New York Rediscovered, presented in association with one of the world's leading photography museums, FOAM Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam, which will feature specially-commissioned photographs by twelve artists—some internationally renowned and some young and emerging—exploring New York and New Yorkers through a Dutch perspective.

Highlights of Mannahatta/Manhattan will be:

· Seven large portals through which visitors can view monumental digital recreations of specific areas of present-day Manhattan ; the recreations depict the island some 400 years ago

· A topographical relief map of the island onto which projections will portray the different stages of its development, both natural and synthetic

· A rare look at the legendary work—in its original form—of John Randel, Jr., whose field notebooks and maps, made between 1812 and 1822, recorded with hand-drawn, painstaking detail the state of the island some 200 years ago

· A rare look at paintings, prints, and drawings from the Museum of the City of New York ’s renowned collection, portraying the natural environment of the city even as it became more populated and was transmuted into the largely built environment that it is today

Taken together, the three exhibitions at the Museum present an illuminating and thought-provoking looks at New York City , providing visitors with a rare opportunity to experience the otherwise remote and obscured distant past of the city along with today’s fascinating and diverse present.

Museum of the City of New York | Manhattan | Wildlife Conservation Society | Henry Hudson | FOAM Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam |

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