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SCIENCE | Exploring Human Origins

North Spokane Library gets into humanity's roots


A statue depicting early humans at the North Spokane Library's collaboration with the Smithsonian. - MIKE BOOKEY
  • Mike Bookey
  • A statue depicting early humans at the North Spokane Library's collaboration with the Smithsonian.

On a recent afternoon at the North Spokane Library, there's an impromptu discussion between patrons happening near the center of the facility. At a library-appropriate whisper, they're talking about carbon dating and primitive tools and the archaeological process.

It's all been sparked by the library's ongoing exhibit and educational series, Exploring Human Origins: What Does It Mean to Be Human?, a collaboration with the Smithsonian that brings replicas of items from the National Museum of Natural History to Spokane. Human Origins features more than 40 curved panels illustrating the long evolutionary arch that created the human beings walking the earth today. Included are quotes from Smithsonian experts, in addition to factoids aplenty. A half-hour stroll through the panels alone produces an extensive and thought-provoking crash course on everything from how our ancestors adapted to changing climates to early communication techniques.

Brought to Spokane by North Spokane librarian Vanessa Strange, the exhibit also features skull casts of early humans, as well as interactive digital kiosks that give users a hands-on understanding of what amounts to a complex subject.

"I want people to not just learn about the science presented, but I want people to think about what it means to be human, and that maybe we all have more in common than we thought, and we don't have to interact from a place of conflict," says Strange.

The exhibit also features a number of lectures and discussions, not just at the North Spokane location, but throughout the district. The programming ranges from a discussion by paleontologist Jim Chatters, who excavated Kennewick Man, to a collaboration with Mobius Science Center geared toward kids that explains the basics of DNA.

Exploring Human Origins runs through Feb. 2. For a complete schedule of events, visit

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