Smithsonian Gardens, Habitat Exhibition, Sheltering Branches

Smithsonian Gardens, Habitat Exhibition, Sheltering Branches


(birds chirping) (wind rustling) – My name is Eric Calhoun and I’m the lead horticulturalist for the National Museum of African
American History and Culture. – My name is Sarah Tietbohl. I’m a horticulturist, at the African American
History and Culture Museum. – Sheltering Branches is about the idea of habitat as a source of and a space for safety, protection and strength. So we look at the idea of habitat as a space where organisms,
where people, plants, animals, insects, can find
refuge and find safety. This habitat exhibit,
we had a specific focus on not just taking the
idea of habitat on its own, as stand alone, but also
looking at it in the context of what our museum was all about. We had one focus that was
specifically on the environment and so we had this idea
that with our Tillandsias and our epiphytes, that
the live oak is a host and a protector for a large variety and very unique species of plants. – A Tillandsia is an epiphytic plant and epiphytic plants are
plants that attach themselves as a host to an organism such as live oak. And they get the nutrients from
the air, the rain and that. So it doesn’t take anything
from the tree to harm it. It just uses it as a place to live. Without the live oak, Spanish Moss and Tillandsia and ferns would not exist. – We’re also looking at it
through the lens of culture and so we wanted to see how
does this live oak tree, interact with American
history, with American culture and specifically with African
American history and culture, through the lens of the
African American experience. And what we saw was that it was a very easy
connection to make. – [Sarah] Live oak is iconic to the South. – These trees were important
parts of our history. They saw these important
elements of our history. And then, they also provided a space for these events to be created. One element that we look at in some of our interpretive panels
is the idea of hush harbors. And these are spaces that
were a source of safety for enslaved African
Americans who were looking to practice for their religion. These were spaces where
African Americans would go into the woods under
the protection of trees, live oak being one of
those, to find a refuge, find a safe space where
they wouldn’t be heard, where others wouldn’t be able
to sort of hone in on them. Another thing would be to
practice reading and writing. In a lot of states, African
Americans were not allowed to learn how to read and write. So these would be a safe spaces where African Americans could go, teach themselves to read,
practice reading and writing. – It opens up a window
to have a conversation to visitors about what habitat really is. And, you know, what the tree represents, and not only a host and
a habitat for plants, but also enslaved Africans
used it as a place to have classes and hide
under and found shelter. – It’s a really special place to be, especially in its infancy as the museum and the gardens are brand new. – I hope that people get people
thinking about our history and what it represents.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *