Culture Connect Featured Event
The New Haven Museum offers an exhibition pairing powerful interpretive art created by seven well-known Connecticut artists with scientific analysis by noted bioarchaeologists in “Nothing is Set in Stone: The Lincoln Oak and the New Haven Green,” an informative and revelatory tribute to the historic Lincoln Oak on the New Haven Green. In October 2012, winds from Hurricane Sandy toppled the mighty oak—planted in 1909 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth—revealing human skeletal remains in the tree’s exposed roots and creating an enigmatic story that captured the imagination of the entire country. The exhibition runs through November 2, 2014.
For the artistic portion of “Nothing is Set in Stone: The Lincoln Oak and the New Haven Green,” area artists were invited to use branches, limbs, or pieces of the trunk of the Lincoln Oak to interpret the history of the tree and the discovery of the skeletal remains beneath it. The exhibit includes two works by noted Hamden sculptor, Susan Clinard, who says of her Lincoln Oak sculpture, Of the Same Branch; Portraits of the Civil War, 2014:
“I found a long branch from the Lincoln oak and wanted to tie the human experience together by sculpting several seemingly very different people from the civil war era from the same branch…to show a slave family and a Yankee and Confederate soldier. I looked at hundreds of civil war photographs and drew inspiration from the many hazy images I saw; trying to offer up each their story.”
The other artists included in the exhibition are Lani Asuncion, Erich Davis, Michael Quirk, Jeff Slomba, Rachael A. Vaters-Carr and Alison Walsh. The collected works include mixed-media sculpture and video.
The scientific component of the exhibition consists of the results of the on-going archaeological analysis of human remains recovered from the site. Photo panels describe the remains—including bones, teeth, hair and tissue—and how they were used to determine the gender and approximate ages of those whose remains were unearthed in October, 2012, and offer hypotheses on health and disease issues of the interred. The contents of two time capsules found at the site of the fallen Lincoln Oak are also on display. The research shared in the “Nothing is Set in Stone” exhibition was conducted by G. P Aronsen, K. A. Williamson, and Y. Tonoike (Yale University); N. I. Bellantoni (UConn); G. Conlogue & N. Pelletier (Quinnipiac University); J. Krigbaum (U. Florida); and L. Fehren-Schmitz (UCSC). Historical research was provided by J. Schiff (Yale University) J. Bischoff-Wurstle, and J. Campbell (New Haven Museum).
“It’s exciting to innovate new ways of interpreting New Haven history,” says New Haven Museum Director of Photo Archives Jason Bischoff-Wurstle, who coordinated the exhibition. “Thanks to the vision of those who contributed, this exhibition uses unconventional elements to document one of the city’s most colorful historic chapters.”
The New Haven Green was used as a burying ground throughout Colonial times and until 1812. The Lincoln Oak was planted in 1909 by local members of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) —an organization of Civil War veterans--in honor of President Abraham Lincoln. In 2012, the uprooted tree revealed several surprises including two time capsules buried in 1909 by members of the GAR, and the remains of several 18th-century residents of New Haven.
“One hundred fifty years later, President Lincoln and the Civil War continue to fascinate us,” says New Haven Museum Executive Director Margaret Anne Tockarshewsky. “We expect that the public may have a strong response to both the artists’ interpretations and the findings of the scientists who continue to examine the remains found beneath the Lincoln Oak.”
The New Haven Museum was gifted with the contents of the time capsules uprooted by the Lincoln Oak by The Committee of the Proprietors of the Common and Undivided Lands of New Haven, and a sampling of the artifacts is on display at the Museum.
The research was supported by The Committee of the Proprietors of the Common and Undivided Lands in New Haven; Yale University, Department of Anthropology; and Connecticut State Museum of Natural History and Archaeology Center, University of Connecticut.
“Nothing is Set in Stone” follows a panel discussion at the New Haven Museum on October 31, 2013, which revealed the initial findings of the team of scientists charged with investigating the human remains and time capsules discovered on the Green. The panel is expected to reconvene and present concluding details of the team’s research in late October, 2014, coinciding with the two-year anniversary of the toppling of the Lincoln Oak.