Northeastern Section - 53rd Annual Meeting - 2018

Paper No. 50-9
Presentation Time: 11:00 AM


DOYLE, Sarah L., Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, 10 Memorial Street, Deerfield, MA 01342 and VENNE, Alfred, Beneski Museum of Natural History, Amherst College, P.O. Box 5000, Amherst, MA 01002-5000

Many students take an Earth science or geology course to fulfill a requirement, knowing little to nothing about the field. Like all sciences, geology can appear to have ready answers unconnected to other areas of human endeavor, such as art, religion or philosophy. An interdisciplinary approach to teaching can ameliorate this perception for students who are intimidated by the subject and deepen the understanding of those who are already excited about geology.

One strategy is the effective use of research-based transdisciplinary digital resources. We use a recently developed website, Impressions from a Lost World, to show how history and art can enrich classroom and field trip experiences. The site integrates historical and cultural resources with modern understandings of geology, drawing upon local libraries, historical societies, archives, museums, municipal and state record offices, and the insights of working geologists and educators. It uses a 19th-century American story about Edward Hitchcock that took place when geology was coming into its own as a science and state and federal agencies needed to meet the utilitarian needs of a growing country.

Edward Hitchcock joined the faculty at Amherst College as professor of Natural Theology and Geology in 1825 and taught there the rest of his life. His wife, Orra Hitchcock, was a scientific illustrator who created over 1,400 geological drawings, plates, wood cuts, and large pieces on linen for her husband. The website focuses primarily on the Hitchcocks and two geological questions of interest: dinosaur footprints and glaciers. Original documents, books, letters, articles, and objects show how Hitchcock and his scientific contemporaries were thinking and reasoning. Brief background pieces and biographical information give historical and scientific context to the events and ideas considered. Interactives, videos, and audios provide other ways for students to engage with the material.

This workshop will examine the research basis for the website and the many documents easily available on line, for example, the American Journal of Science from its first issue in 1818, the proceedings of various organizations, etc., along with poems, paintings, and religious documents that challenged or celebrated geological findings.

  • GSA Impressions Presentation for UPLOAD.pptx (13.3 MB)
  • GSA Impressions Website Presentation Script - UPLOAD.docx (28.5 kB)