Exploring Human Origins Site Support Notebook: Programming

Table of Contents:

  1. Overview and Local Consultation Panel
  2. Scheduling NMNH Programs
  3. NMNH Scientist-Led Programs
  4. Other Required Programs
  5. Additional Programming Resources

Overview and Local Consultation Panel 

Library host sites are required to create a local consultation panel composed of community members of diverse backgrounds and perspectives. The panels are meant to serve as advisors for developing local programs and publicity, and for organizing and conducting community discussions about evolution. The panels will ideally be composed of people from different religious, educational, humanities, civic, scientific and other community groups. The size of the consultation panel is flexible depending on community needs. In addition, on request, the NMNH Human Origins Program’s Broader Social Impacts Committee (BSIC) can help provide libraries with connections to local networks and groups interested in the science and religion dialogue.

If you are having issues finding people to join your consultation panel, here are some resources to consider and share with prospective members.

  • We suggest that you direct potential consultation panel members to the Broader Social Impacts Committee area of the Smithsonian website (including these videos and the primer on science, religion, evolution, and creationism).
  • You can also share this Undark article about the Exploring Human Origins traveling exhibit.
  • This profile of Rick Potts on the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) website focuses on how he approaches engagement with religious communities and on the traveling exhibit. His approach to the science-religion relationship is one of mutual respect, creating positive dialogue, and finding points of connection.
  • Also, this TEDx talk that Dr. Briana Pobiner recently did titled “Can you believe in God and accept evolution?”, though not directly related to the traveling exhibit, might also be helpful. She will be leading the Educator workshop at your library as part of the required programming.

In order to reach a large audience in their communities, library host sites are required to host at least seven public programs throughout the course of their host period. Required programs include three or four programs, as described below, presented by scientists from the NMNH Human Origins Program and members of the BSIC, plus a minimum of four additional programs throughout the library's host period. One of the programs must be a formal opening of the exhibition (which may be held in conjunction with the evening science program, described in #3 below). Programs, including presentations by scientists from the NMNH Human Origins Program, may be held in-person, virtually, or hybrid. 

Scheduling NMNH Programs 

Scientists from the NMNH Human Origins Program and members of the BSIC will develop program schedules for their presentations at each library. Project Directors should begin scheduling the details for the NMNH scientist-led programs four months before their scheduled host start date. Meghan Gieseker (mgieseker@ala.org) will email the Project Director at each host site to connect them with Dr. Briana Pobiner four months in advance. Each Project Director will work with Dr. Briana Pobiner to schedule the programs and coordinate the travel plans for the NMNH staff. If the host site is interested in hosting the optional event for clergy members, Dr. Briana Pobiner will also connect Project Directors to BSIC co-chair, Jim Miller, to coordinate those logistics. 

Please note: This process only applies for the three or four NMNH scientist-led programs (listed below). The four other additional programs should be planned with the local consultation panel and library staff at each site. 

NMNH Scientist-Led Programs 

The programs presented by the NMNH staff and BSIC co-chairs are required for each library site to host (please note that the event for clergy and community members is optional, but strongly encouraged). These required programs will include the following: 

  1. Community Conversation: "What Does it Mean to Be Human?," led by BSIC co-chairs Drs. Connie Bertka and Jim Miller. 
    Join with other members of your community to explore together, in small group discussions, a variety of answers to the question "What does it mean to be human?". As part of these conversations we will consider how answers to this question might intersect with a scientific understanding of human origins as displayed in the exhibit.

  2. Educator workshop. Dr. Briana Pobiner, who leads the NMNH Human Origins Program's education and outreach efforts, with the assistance of Dr. Connie Bertka, will present a half-day workshop on human evolution for science educators in each community hosting the exhibition. The workshop is for classroom teachers, science and nature center and museum educators, homeschoolers and other local educators. It will feature exploration and hands-on practice in presenting the NMNH Human Origins Program resources provided for each community. These resources include a set of five early human skull casts; classroom-tested, high-school biology teaching activities; and a teacher resource on cultural and religious sensitivity strategies. Dr. Briana Pobiner will bring the set of five early human skull casts to your library with her for the workshop, and your library will be able to keep the set after your host period is completed. Depending on the size of the community, project sponsors would like to have from 5 to 20 teachers attend this workshop

  3. Evening science program. In consultation with each library and their local consultation panel, Dr. Rick Potts, the exhibition curator and director of the NMNH Human Origins Program, will give a lecture for the general public about the latest research in human evolution and an overview of exhibition themes and messages. This program could also involve another scientist speaker from the local area, and would likely be held on or close to the opening day of the exhibition. The evening science program may double as the opening reception.

  4. OPTIONAL: Event for clergy and community leaders. If individual libraries are interested in specifically engaging religious leaders in their community on the topic of human evolution, the BSIC co-chairs will coordinate a focused event for clergy and community leaders to explore the exhibit with NMNH Human Origins Program scientific and education staff and BSIC members. The agenda for discussion following the tour will be coordinated with input from the local consultation panel. Ideally, one or two local, respected clergy and community leaders will work with the BSIC co-chairs to invite their local colleagues to this event.

Other Required Programs

In addition to the programs presented by the NMNH Human Origins Program, libraries should present at least four other public programs throughout the course of their exhibition host period. The local consultation panel should serve as advisors for these programs. Programs may be lectures by experts in this area, panel discussions, book discussions (see below for a list of recommended books), readings, performances, or other formats. One of the additional programs must be a formal opening of the exhibition (which may be held in conjunction with the evening science program, described as #3 above).

Collaborations with schools (including universities and community colleges), science centers, and museums in presenting programs are recommended. Libraries are encouraged to present a free program at a different public venue to help draw different audiences. Libraries are also encouraged to work with local experts in the science of human origins, religious studies, ethics, philosophy and the arts and humanities in developing these programs. 

The project funder and organizers would like libraries to engage with schools in presenting the exhibition to the community. Visits to the exhibition by school groups are strongly encouraged. 

Library host sites selected to be part of the tour will be asked to provide project sponsors with brief descriptions of their final list of additional programs for approval. This information will be inputted into the Pre-Exhibit Report (as described in the "Reporting Requirements" part of the "Logistics" section of the Site Support Notebook). 

Additional Programming Resources

See a list of program recommendations for various audiences.

See a list of book recommendations curated by NMNH staff. 

See a list of curated film suggestions. 


Next page: Publicity