Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

Connecting to the Natural World

April 8, 2020

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Henry and Clara Ford bird-watch near the Rouge River in Dearborn, Michigan. THF96013


Over the course of a few short weeks, our daily lives have been disrupted in an unprecedented way. For most of us, our daily schedules no longer require moving from place to place — from our homes to our workplaces, miles away.

In our rush to get to the next location, did we ever stop to think about the space we traveled through to reach our destination? Did we ever stop to admire the natural world that envelops our civilization?

We hastily moved through the world. Now, while many of us are temporarily stationary, the natural world continues its movement around us. This presents a unique opportunity. With less demand on where you have to be, take this chance to enjoy the beauty of that motion. All it takes is a look out the window or a step out the door.

Here are the stories of a few makers and doers from The Henry Ford’s collection whose connection to the natural world might just help you step back, admire, reconnect and recharge:

- Learn more about the life of naturalist and writer John Burroughs in this Google Arts & Culture digital exhibit. Or take a look through pressed wildflowers Burroughs collected on an 1899 trip to Alaska in this album.

- Agricultural scientist George Washington Carver was committed to teaching, serving the community and making a difference. Learn more about his work in this blog. Or take a read through one of his publications used by educators to teach kids about gardening.

- Glass artist Paul Stankard, considered one of the fathers of the studio glass movement, drew upon a deep connection with the natural world to intricately replicate flowers and other botanicals in his acclaimed paperweights. Learn more about Stankard’s life, work and inspiration through his own words in this Visionaries on Innovation interview.

- Before starting a national conversation on the use of pesticides, author Rachel Carson found success with her poetic book  The Sea Around Us. A New York Times bestseller for nearly two years and winner of the John Burroughs Medal for nature writing, Carson's work can be checked out virtually for those who can’t make it outdoors.

Whether it’s a new flower blooming or the birds singing outside your window, find solace in the simple beauty of the world around you. Who knows, maybe the inspiration you find will lead you to spark a change in your own way.

Ryan Jelso is an Associate Curator at The Henry Ford.

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