this is the american earth 1955 exhibit and 1960
1955, the Sierra Club mounted an exhibit entitled This
Is the American Earth at
the LeConte Memorial Lodge in Yosemite Valley that represented a watershed
in the annals of conservation advocacy.
The exhibit and the book of the same name, published five years later, were
instrumental in spawning the modern "environmental movement." Originally
created by photographer Ansel Adams and photographic historian and writer Nancy
is the American Earth led to the Club's highly successful and award-winning "Exhibit
Format" book series.
"This Is the American Earth is
one of the great statements in the history of conservation," proclaimed
Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. It has been reprinted several
times in the subsequent decades. You may read
an excerpt from the foreword by David Brower (off-site link). The is also a summary of The Making of This Is The American Earth by Landscape Photographer Blogger. (off-site link)
In recognition of the historical importance of This Is the American Earth,
the Sierra Club reissued the book and re-created the exhibition as part of
its 100th anniversary celebration in 1992. The new exhibit opened at the Ansel
Adams Center in San Francisco, and was subsequently shown at the American Museum
of Natural History in New York City, and on tour in Japan. During
the summer of 1993, the Sierra Club hosted the This
is the American Earth exhibit once again in Yosemite, this time at the
Yosemite Museum next to the Visitor Center.
The exhibition and book comprises more than fifty stunning black and white
photography, half by Ansel Adams and half by artists such as Werner Bischof,
Margaret Bourke-White, William Garnett, Eliot Porter and Edward Weston. The
photographs were drawn from public and private collections throughout the
country. These magnificent photographs are accompanied by a poetic narrative
text by Nancy Newhall, who made the selection of images included in the original
book and exhibition.
The text and photographs explore the country's awakening to trends of environmental
protection after the westward expansion of the mid-19th century, the establishment
of National Parks to preserve wilderness areas and the need for a more global
response to environmental protection in the wake of widespread urban and industrial
development in the mid-20th century.
Despite being written more than fifty years
ago, Newhall's compelling text remains a major document of environmental writing,
one that speaks strongly to our contemporary world even in the twenty-first
Here is the complete text of the exhibition flyer of 1955 which accompanied
the exhibit. We find its message rings even more true, 50 years later:
This is the American Earth
An exhibit on the theme of conservation, produced under the auspices of the
California Academy of Sciences and the Sierra Club, exhibited at the LeConte
Memorial Lodge, Yosemite Valley, summer of 1955.
The purpose of this exhibit This is the American Earth is not only
to present the natural scene in terms of National Parks and wilderness areas,
but also to give perspective to the whole vast pattern of conservation. We
hope this will aid in a more specific appreciation of parks and wilderness
and encourage constructive action in their behalf. the exhibit suggests the
enormous inspirational potential of the natural scene, and pleads for wise
forest protection and use, for the cautious building of dams, for understanding
of management of the soil, and for the protection of wildlife. It strives for
continuation of the wilderness mood, the spiritual experience of young and
old in the presence of nature.
A great obligation of our age is to protect and wisely use our natural resources.
Both the material and intangible resources of our land are constantly threatened
by men who would exploit them for short-term gain. Much of the tangible wealth
of the earth - the timber, grass, oil, minerals, and watershed - is gone.
And the intangible wealth of nature - as expressed through the National Parks
and Monuments and the great scenic areas - is continuously imperiled. The vigilance
of individuals and organizations dedicated to an ordered progress of civilization,
in our tim and in the time of our descendents, has done much to curb the destructive
influences. It is a continuing vigil.
SEQUENCE OF THE EXHIBIT
We suggest -
1. Start at the left-hand inner panel (No. 1) and follow through the six inner
2. Go to the outer (west) panel and follow 7, 8, and 9.
3. Cross to the separate east panel (Redman's Sierra Nevada) then to Whiteman's
4. Return to the east side of the room and take up the outer panels, 12, 13,
The custodian is prepared to give information on the Sierra Club, on the National
Parks, and on Yosemite Valley.
Organizations such as the Sierra Club and its associated groups throughout
the country continue to serve the cause of conservation and give their support
to the ideals and efforts of the National Park Service toward the protection
of our fast-dwindling wilderness areas. Your support of their program is invited.
The Sierra Club * 1050 Mills Tower * San Francisco 4
This exhibit was made possible by the generosity of Walter A. Starr. It was
conceived by Nancy Newhall, writer, and Ansel Adams, photographer, with the
collaboration of Frann Spencer Reynolds, artist, and Richard Reynolds, geographer,
and Eldridge T. Spencer, architect, and Samuel Provenzano, artist. Acknowledgement
is gratefully due to many individuals, organizations, and government bureaus
who generously gave time, knowledge and illustrations to this project.
Information and Donations
For more information, during the summer contact Sierra Club LeConte Memorial Lodge
Curator, P.O. Box 755, Yosemite, CA 95389, (209) 372-4542.
During the winter, contact LeConte Lodge Committee Chair, Harold Wood, P.O. Box 3543,
Visalia, CA 93278; phone: (559) 697-3525; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tax deductible donations to support the exhibits, renovation, and programming
efforts of the
LeConte Memorial can be made to "Sierra Club Foundation," marked for
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