State Museum Hosts Lunchtime Talk Series "Brain Food for the Curious" 2019 - 2020

Release Date: 
Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Contact Information: 
Contact: Office of Communications Phone: (518) 474-1201


New York State Museum historians and scientists will share their knowledge and research in a series of lunchtime talks this fall and winter. “Brain Food for the Curious” will be held on select Tuesdays in October through March, from 12:10 – 12:40 p.m., in the Huxley Theater. Each program includes a 20-minute talk with a State Museum historian or scientist followed by a question-and-answer period. Attendees are encouraged to bring their lunch.

Following is a schedule of “Brain Food for the Curious” talks for the 2019 – 2020 season:

Museums & Criminal Justice: Finding Common Ground
Tuesday, October 15

Criminal justice reform has been called one of the most significant civil rights issues of the modern era. Museums and historic collections are increasingly being called upon to explain the history of mass incarceration in the United States, and museum galleries can serve as venues for dialogue and discussion about some of the most pressing concerns in today’s society. Join Senior Historian of Political and Military History Aaron Noble to explore recent examples of how museums have engaged diverse audiences in these complicated narratives and look at how New York State Museum collections can foster similar discussions across the state.

What is Tonalism? 
Tuesday, October 22

The New York State Museum will host the exhibition, Tonalism: Pathway from the Hudson River School to Modern Art from February 15 – June 14, 2020. Senior Curator of Art and Culture Karen Quinn will explain what tonalism is and why this turn-of-the-twentieth-century style was all the rage and then fell out of favor.

Creative Women’s Collective Collection
Tuesday, November 5

“Craftivism”—using artistic skills and forms to spread an activist message—has had a resurgence in recent years, especially around feminist issues. Craftivism, in part, has roots in the artistic collectives of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, which produced posters, t-shirts, and other materials to support various causes. This talk by Senior Historian and Curator of Social History Ashley Hopkins-Benton will focus on a collection of material produced by the Creative Women’s Collective in New York City in the 1980s and its ties to modern women’s movement materials.

Champions in a Changing World: New York Mets, Jets, and Knicks in 1969
Tuesday, November 19

Fifty years ago this year, Tom Seaver, Joe Namath, and Willis Reed delivered one of the most iconic years in New York sports history. The 1969 New York Mets, Jets, and Knicks triumphed on the field and court, winning championships in a fast-changing world. Join New York State Museum Sports History Curator Stephen Loughman as he explores this significant year in New York sports history.

Submerged Landscapes of New York
Tuesday, December 3 

Beneath the waters of New York State lie hundreds of shipwrecks, but did you know there are also submerged landscapes, places that were once dry land? Some of these places were drowned intentionally, including several villages in the Catskill Mountains that were destroyed to create reservoirs to meet New York City’s water needs. Other more ancient landscapes have been drowned by rising sea levels. Join archaeologist Dr. Daria Merwin for a look at some of the state’s submerged landscapes and learn about the potential for underwater archaeology at these sites.

Earth's Earliest Life
Tuesday, December 17 

The simplest lifeforms on Earth today are bacteria, and it is likely that Earth’s first living organisms were similar. But how do we recognize something as small and simple as a bacterium in the fossil record? This talk by State Paleontologist Dr. Lisa Amati will present evidence about when and where the first life evolved on Earth and how we identify it.

15th- and 16th-Century Iroquoian Agriculture        
Tuesday, January 7

Native American farmers developed agronomic practices throughout the Western Hemisphere suited to local climatic conditions and the degree of reliance on agricultural production for subsistence. Dr. John Hart will discuss Iroquoian agricultural practices in New York and southern Ontario and how those practices maintained soil fertility and crop productivity for decades, producing enough food for village populations in the hundreds to thousands of people.

Glacial Fingerprints: How Glaciation Left Its Mark in New York State
Tuesday, January 21 

With the increasing use of high-resolution LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) remote sensing technology, subtle topographic details of the most recent glaciation have never been more visible to researchers. Join geologist and Museum Curator of Quaternary Landscape Materials Andrew Kozlowski as he explains how this new technology works and displays glacial landforms that occupy New York State’s landscape.

New DNA Technology Reveals the Evolutionary History of Birds
Tuesday, February 4 

Are penguins closely related to ducks? Are flamingos just goofy-looking herons, or are they something completely different? When did songbirds evolve? Curators of bird-specimen collections study the evolutionary relationships of birds using the fossil record and modern DNA-sequencing technologies. As these technologies have improved so has our understanding of the history of birdlife on Earth. Dr. Jeremy Kirchman, the State Museum’s curator of birds, will explain how a new revolution in DNA laboratory methods has changed what we know about bird evolution.

The Courtland Street Burying Ground, Lake George, N.Y.
Tuesday, February 18

When smallpox broke out among the troops in northern New York in the spring of 1776, a general hospital was established at Fort George on the southern end of Lake George. Thousands were admitted and many died. Their place of burial was unknown until 2019, when human remains discovered during construction were identified from the Revolutionary War. A major salvage effort of the heavily disturbed site was launched and Museum bioarchaeologists began the complex task of reconstructing human remains. Curator of bioarchaeology Lisa Anderson will share the history and progress of the ongoing research.

These Rock Layers in New York are the Same Age as These in Morocco
Tuesday, March 3 

Dr. Charles Ver Straeten will explain how correlation, or recognizing same-age rocks from place to place, is one of the elemental tasks of a sedimentary geologist. Correlating rocks is done by finding the same features or patterns at different places, such as the same unique fossils, unique layers, or patterns of sedimentation in rocks.

You Are What You Eat: How Chemistry Informs About Ancient Ecosystems
Tuesday, March 17 

The fossils of ancient individuals contain clues to how they lived. Dr. Robert S. Feranec, curator of Pleistocene vertebrate paleontology, will discuss how he uses different chemicals in fossilized teeth and bones to understand how and where ancient animals lived, and how that may have changed over time.

The State Museum is a program of the New York State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. Located at 222 Madison Avenue in Albany, the Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It is closed on the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Admission is free. Further information about programs and events can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting the Museum website at