George North could skin a muskrat blindfolded. At 56 years old, North was a white man who had spent his entire life on the Eastern Shore. He lived in Cambridge, Maryland: home of the first annual muskrat skinning contest in 1939.
Since I began working on my dissertation project on the multiple ways the relationship between humans and nature is understood and enacted under climate change, one of the most important shifts in my thinking has been to see extinction not only as a scientific concept, but a social, cultural, and political phenomenon.
Looking back, my fascination with museums has clearly played out in my doctoral research on emerging relationships between humans and nonhumans under ecological emergency. Unsurprisingly, the natural history museum is one of the most fraught sites in which these relationships have historically been constructed.