The American Library Association,

the John Templeton Foundation and

the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History

Human Origins Program

present the traveling exhibition





JANUARY 7, 2017 – FEBRUARY 3, 2017


Otis Library is one of only 19 libraries in the nation to host Exploring Human Origins: What Does It Mean to Be Human?, a national traveling exhibition exploring the complex field of human evolution research. The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of free programs, including presentations by Smithsonian scientists.

 Based on a popular exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, Exploring Human Origins: What Does It Mean to Be Human? explores the process of scientific investigation by shedding light on what we know about human evolution and how we know it. 

 Through panels, interactive kiosks, hands-on displays and videos, the exhibition invites audiences to explore milestones in the evolutionary journey of becoming human — from walking upright, creating technology and eating new foods, to brain enlargement and the development of symbolic language and complex societies — advancements that define the unique position of humans in the history of life.

 The exhibition seeks to foster a positive dialogue with people from different cultural perspectives and a respectful exploration into the science of human origins.

 The traveling exhibition will visit the following communities from April, 2015 through April, 2017:

base map.jpg

Upcoming Events

Opening Weekend :

Saturday, January 7, 10am to 5pm

Tour the exhibit!  Join us for all-day entertainment for all ages.

10am Welcome by Robert Farwell, Executive Director of Otis Library, and Mayor Deb Hinchey


Battlefields of the Pequot War

Sunday, January 8, 2pm

Dr. Kevin McBride, Director of Research at the Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, will give a presentation on the battlefields of the Pequot War.  After more than 375 years, the Pequot War remains one of the most controversial and significant events in Colonial and Native history of America.   The Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center is identifying and preserving battlefields and historical sites associated with the Pequot War.  The museum's new exhibit, "Archaeology of Mistick Fort," highlights the latest findings, with over 60 artifacts from the Pequot Museum's archaeological surveys of the Mistick Fort site and subsequent English Allied Withdrawal.  


Evening Science Talk:  Dr. Rick Potts, and Dr. Nicholas Bellantoni

Monday, January 9, 6pm

How can scientific discoveries on human evolution connect with larger understandings of what it means to be human?  Smithsonian Paleoanthropologist Dr. Rick Potts and Emeritus CT State Archaeologist Dr. Nicholas Bellantoni, will discuss the main themes and messages of the exhibit.  The talk will explore how fossils, archaeological remains, and genetic studies shed light on our connection with the natural world and the origins of sharing, caring, and innovation.


Changing Minds Book Club

Wednesday, January 11, 5pm

Facilitated by Faye Ringel, Professor Emerita of Humanities at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.  Join in on a discussion of  When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi.  This inspiring memoir finds hope and beauty in the face of insurmountable odds as an idealistic neurosurgeon attempts to answer the question "What makes life worth living?"  Refreshments will be served.  Copies of the book When Breath Becomes Air will be available to borrow at the Front Desk. This program is sponsored by The Friends of Otis Library.


What Does Human Evolution Mean to You? 

A Community Conversation with Drs. Connie Bertka and Jim Miller, co-chairs of the Smithsonian Institute's Broader Spectrum Social Impacts Committee

Wednesday, January 11,  6pm

How do scientific discoveries about human origins relate to people's personal understanding of the world and their place in it?  Join Drs. Connie Bertka and Jim Miller as they encourage a community conversation about human evolution that helps us to understand each other's perspectives, to identify areas of common interest or concern, and to explore a variety of ways human evolution connects to personal meaning.


Paleo Artist John Gurche

Saturday, January 21, 1pm

Paleo artist John Gurche will present the program Who Was Homo Naledi? The Scientific Detective Work Behind Answering This Question.  He will discuss the discovery, excavation, analysis and reconstruction of Homo naledi, a new species of human found in a cave in South Africa.  He will also offer a sneak preview of work for his next book and exhibition. 

John Gurche's work can be seen in the Smithsonian Institution, the American Museum of Natural History, Chicago's Field Museum and other museums around the world.  His illustrations have been featured in National Geographic Magazine, including four covers, and he was hired by Stephen Spielberg to create pre-production drawings for Jurassic Park.  Mr. Gurche is the author of Shaping Humanity: How Science, Art and Imagination Help Us Understand Our Origins, about the creation of 15 sculptures for the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History Hall of Human Origins, which opened in 2010.  This program is sponsored by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.


A Conversation on Modern Sexuality

Wednesday, January 25, 6pm

Otis Library and OutCT are hosting a panel discussion on the evolution of our understanding of Human Sexuality.  Kia Baird, Festival Chair of OutCT, will moderate discussions from Professors at the University of Connecticut, Mitchell College, and Pacific School of Religion.. OutCT builds community through educational, cultural and social programming that promotes acceptance, tolerance and understanding of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Free event; no registration required.

There will be three short talks followed by a Q&A with the audience:  "Media Impacts on Sexual Attitudes and Behavior" by Tara Broccoli, Associate Professor of Behavioral Sciences at Mitchell College;  "Queer Fiction 1890-1960 and Some Social Issues They Engendered" by Maragret Sonser Breen, Professor of English and Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University of Connecticut; and "Gender, Sexuality and the Bible" by Daniel Rodriguez Schlorff, Christian Education and Youth Minister at Niantic Community Church and at dissertation stage of Doctor of Ministry in Sexuality and Religion, Pacific School of Religion (Berkeley, CA).


Viva Brazil-Ginga Brasileira!

Saturday, January 28, 10:30 am

This professional ensemble performs a colorful, crowd-pleasing repertoire of Afro-Brazilian dances that fuse rhythmic music with high-energy gymnastics and martial arts.  The ensemble performs Capoeira, a martial art dance form developed in Brazil by 16th-Century slaves.  Also featured are Maculele, a stick dance created by African slaves working on Brazilian sugarcane plantations, and Samba, Brazil's national dance. All ages welcome!  This program is sponsored by Attorney Bart Sayet and Ms. Lori Lindfors.


Henna Tattoos by Jamilah Zebarth

Saturday, January 28, 12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

Discover the ancient art of henna and learn about its history and its role in cultures throughout the centuries.  Please register for this program by calling the Front Desk at (860) 889-2365 or registering on our online calendar at  This program is sponsored by Attorney Bart Sayet and Ms. Lori Lindfors. 


Painting with Faith

Saturday, January 28, 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Local artist Faith Satterfield will be on hand to help you create an original work of art relating to "What Does It Mean To Be Human?"  Faith is a mural artist, an internationally trained illustrator and teaching artist.  Drop-in; no registration required.


Perfecting Humanity: The Norwich State Hospital and the Science of Racial Purity

Monday, January 30, 6pm

Presented by Robert Farwell, Executive Director of Otis Library.  Eugenics, the attempt to improve the human species socially through better breeding, was a widespread and popular movement in the United States and Europe between 1910 and 1940.  This program provides an overview of the Norwich State Hospital and Connecticut's involvement at the turn of the 20th century.  


Sign language interpretation will be available for programs. Advance registration is required.  Please contact Cathleen Special at (860) 889-2365, ext. 125 at least one week before the program date.


Otis Library will be open extended hours during the time of the Smithsonian exhibit.

Saturdays, January 7, 14, 21 and 28:  10am-5pm

Sunday, January 8:  12pm-5pm

Tuesday, January 31, and Thursday, February 2:

Otis Library (exhibit only) will be open until 8pm.


Questions?  Call (860) 889-2365