October 18, 2010

Coral Crochet Exhibit Opened At Natural History Museum

An exhibit at Washington's Natural History Museum is aimed at helping to draw attention to coral reefs, which face stress, degradation and outright extinction due to human activity.

About 800 women ranging from ages three to 101 years old volunteered to take on the project by Australian activists Margaret and Christine Wertheim of the Institute for Figuring.

The volunteers crocheted multicolored strands of wool to mimic the curls of coral, anemones and starfish.

The exhibit is called "Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef," which the organizers say is a reference to the hyperbolic geometry of coral.

"We like to surprise our visitors. You don't expect to see crochet... in a Natural History museum," Barbara Stauffer, chief of temporary exhibits at the Washington institution, told AFP news.

"It's a good way to raise awareness. I learned how to crochet. I made three very small pieces I hope are tucked somewhere and I'm going to spend the next few days trying to find them," she added.

"Twenty percent of the world's coral reefs have been destroyed in the last couple of decades," David Stuart, deputy chief of mission at the Australian embassy in Washington, said as he opened the exhibit.

"If we go on like this we will lose the reefs, particularly the very colorful reefs in tropical waters."

Coral reefs around the world suffer threats brought on by human activity, including global warming. 

Overfishing and pollution also help threaten the delicate ecosystems, which experts say could disappear over the next four decades.

"The reefs that I studied 35 years ago have largely vanished and most reefs may well be gone by the end of the century of sooner, if nothing is done to protect them," Nancy Knowlton, a professor of marine biology at the Smithsonian Institution, told AFP.

"This project is a stark reminder that if trends continue, an exhibition like this may someday be the only way for people to experience the beauty of coral reefs."

The exhibition will run from October 16, 2010 until April 24, 2011. 

Margaret Wertheim said the creative and unusual pieces offer a positive message about how people can help the ecosystem.

"The reef project is a giant explosion of feminine energy, a testimony to what women can achieve when they work together."


Image Caption: The IFF's collection of crocheted hyperbolic planes, in imitation of a coral reef. Courtesy Margaret Wertheim/Wikipedia


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