NHMLA TALKS | Natural History Museum of Los Angeles

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The Natural History Museum’s “NHMLA Talks” catalyzes meaningful conversations between the Los Angeles community and authors, artists, critics, scholars, and staff from NHM and La Brea Tar Pits. We’ll delve into the past, take a look at current events and latest scientific findings to make connections between global topics and local relevance. 



February 7, 2019 | Exhibition Preview and Discussion

In the upcoming exhibition That was then. This is now. A History of PostNatural Selection, alcoholic rats, ribless mice, and genetically modified mosquitoes are among the specimens being presented by artist Richard Pell and the Center for PostNatural History. Explore 10,000 years of human-guided evolution in a fascinating view of items from the collections of the Natural History Museum and the Center for PostNatural History. Each object in the exhibit is simultaneously a piece of natural history and a post-natural artifact of human culture that embodies human desire, hunger, power, and fear.

Join us for a viewing of the exhibition and reflect on the profound questions raised by the interplay between culture, nature, biotechnology,  art, and science in a dynamic discussion with Richard Pell, Director of the Center for PostNatural History in Pittsburgh; Matt Dean, Associate Professor of Molecular and Computational Biology at USC; and Amy Gusick, Associate Curator for Archaeology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Presented by USC Visions and Voices: The Arts and Humanities Initiative. Organized by Karen Liebowitz (USC Roski School of Art and Design) with contributions from Matt Dean (Biological Sciences at USC Dornsife), in partnership with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the Center for PostNatural History. Co-sponsored by the USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study and USC's The Bridge Art + Science Alliance (BASA).

5:30 to 6:30 pm - Preview and Reception
6:30 to 7:30 pm - Discussion and Q&A
7:30 to 8:30 pm - Additional Exhibition Viewing

Parking is charged




Richard Pell

Richard Pell is the founder and director of the Center for PostNatural History, an organization dedicated to the collection and exposition of life-forms that have been intentionally and heritably altered through domestication, selective breeding, tissue culture or genetic engineering. The Center for PostNatural History operates a permanent museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and produces traveling exhibitions that have appeared in science and art museum throughout Europe and the United States including the Victoria and Albert Museum and Wellcome Collection in London, the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin, the CCCB in Barcelona, the ZKM in Karlsruhe, the 2008 Taipei Biennial, and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History as well as being featured in National Geographic, Nature Magazine, American Scientist, Popular Science and New Scientist. The CPNH has been awarded a Rockefeller New Media fellowship, a Creative Capital fellowship, a Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, and received generous support from Waag Society and the Kindle Project. Pell was award the 2016 Pittsburgh Artist of the Year. He is currently an Associate Professor of Art at Carnegie Mellon University.



Amy Gusick

Dr. Gusick is the Associate Curator for Archaeology at the Natural History Museum Los Angeles County. Prior to this she was an Assistant Professor at California State University, San Bernardino and director of a graduate program in Applied Archaeology. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in 1997 from Seton Hall University and a Master's degree in 2007 and Ph.D. in 2012 from the Archaeology program of UC Santa Barbara.

Dr. Gusick is an environmental archaeologist with extensive experience in island and coastal archaeology. Her research interests focus on human-environmental dynamics, the development of maritime societies, peopling of the Americas, and hunter-gatherer subsistence and settlement. Her current research projects consider early human coastal migration and settlement and the effect of environmental stress on Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene human groups along the Pacific Rim. Dr. Gusick uses both terrestrial and underwater archaeological methods in her research which has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Geographic Society, and the American Philosophical Society.



Matt Dean

Dr. Matt Dean is an Associate Professor in Biological Sciences at the University of Southern California. His research focuses on evolutionary biology, particularly processes involved in reproduction. He did his graduate work at The Field Museum in Chicago, then a postdoc at University of Arizona before joining the faculty at USC. He’s studied a broad diversity of topics, including whale pelvic bones, bats and their parasites, mouse seminal fluid, and salmon fertilization rates. Most of his work now focuses on mammalian reproductive biology, where in the context of evolutionary fitness, males and females often have conflicting reproductive interests. How these conflicts play out over time is what gets him up in the morning.


Reservation Policy for Free Programs:
For NHM programs that are free of charge, it is our policy to overbook. In the case of a FULL program your free reservation may not guarantee admission. We recommend arriving early because seating is limited. Space permitting, unclaimed reservations will be released to standby patrons at approximately 6:15 pm. 




February 28, 2019 - 7:30 PM | Is The Digital Age Making Museums Obsolete? 


A Zócalo/Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Event Moderated by Gregory Rodriguez, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Zócalo Public Square


Before the digital age, museums were places where people went to acquire knowledge. But now most of the information and images contained in museums are available on your smartphone. So how can museums stave off obsolescence? Can populist shows and attention-getting architecture keep museums relevant and pull today’s audiences away from their devices? Are some museums succeeding in redefining their purpose as providing “experiences” and at least the semblance of authenticity, like touching mastodon bones or reading directly from the pages of Lincoln’s diary or Gutenberg’s Bible? And what happens when museums try to use social media and other technology to connect visitors to exhibits—and to each other? Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County president and director Lori Bettison-Varga, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center director Lisa Sasaki, and Nicole Ivy, George Washington University public historian and former director of inclusion for the American Alliance of Museums, visit Zócalo to discuss the threats and opportunities that new technologies create for some of our most durable institutions.



National Center for the Preservation of Democracy
111 N. Central Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90012


Paid parking is available at the Little Tokyo Mall Public Parking Lot (318 E. First St.). Enter from San Pedro Street. Additional paid parking is available at the Japanese Village Plaza Parking Lot (356 E. First St.) and the Office Depot Plaza Parking Lot (401 Alameda St.).