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Tuesday, June 2, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Smithsonian traveling exhibit explores human origins

Library patrons can delve into human history this month.

The Smithsonian’s “Exploring Human Origins: What Does It Mean to Be Human?” opens at the North Spokane Library on Tuesday. Spokane is one of 19 stops for the exhibit, said librarian Vanessa Strange.

The 1,200-square-foot traveling exhibit is based on the Hall of Human Origins at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. It includes educational panels, hands-on displays and videos that highlight key milestones in human evolution.

“One of the things I’m excited about is there’s these 3-D skull casts,” Strange said.

The set of five replicas represent different stages in human evolution. And because they are replicas, made on a 3-D printer, “Kids can actually touch them and move them around,” Strange said.

The exhibit comes with one set, and the library gets a second set to keep, she said. They’ll be available to lend out to teachers or for other programs.

At interactive kiosks, visitors will be able see how artists extrapolate from skulls what early humans looked like, or explore the human family tree.

And, one board asks people what it means to be human. Visitors can add their answers to the board, which will be collected and archived at the Natural History Museum, Strange said.

Along with the exhibit, there will be a variety of programs during the month for all ages. On Tuesday, Smithsonian paleoanthropologist Rick Potts will discuss the main themes and messages of the exhibit, and explore how fossils, archeological remains, and genetic studies all shed light on our connection with the natural world.

On Wednesday, Connie Bertka and Jim Miller, co-chairs of the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program, lead a conversation about evolution.

Both those programs start at 7 p.m. at the North Spokane Library.

Other programs bring in local experts, and some are at the Spokane County Library District’s other branches. Two are aimed specifically at children: Mobius Science Center’s Our Genes Aren’t Blue will visit branches through January and February, and Paint Like a Caveman at the North Spokane branch at 4 p.m. Jan. 21.

“It’s a great opportunity, no matter where you’re coming from in terms of your understanding and thoughts about human origins,” Strange said of the exhibit. “If you know nothing, if you know a lot, there’s something for you.”

Kimberly Lusk

What: “Exploring Human Origins: What Does it Mean to Be Human?”

When and where: Tuesday through Feb. 2, at North Spokane Library, 44 E. Hawthorne Road. Library hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Note: The library will be closed Monday to set up the exhibit.

Info: (509) 893-8350 or

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