October 15, 2011 – February 12, 2012
Image: Grizzly Bear Fishing, C. Hart Merriam Pictorial Collection, The Bancroft Library.
Bear in Mind: The Story of the California Grizzly told the saga of one of California’s most beloved and feared animals–the grizzly bear–a central character in California’s history. The exhibit chronicled the demise of the bear through archival sources, the truth about the bear through science, and a look at grizzlies in our imagination, where they still live on. The exhibit was produced by Exhibit Envoy in concert with The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, and Heyday Books, and was made possible by generous grants from The William Randolph Hearst Foundation, Bank of the West, and the James Irvine Foundation.
Bear In Mind used striking images, informative text, memorabilia, a variety of historical and scientific objects, and hands-on activities to engage visitors of all ages. The exhibition was divided into three thematic sections:
1. Loss of the Grizzlies: This first section discussed the reasons behind the extinction of the California grizzly, documenting early Californian’s attitudes about the bears through powerful quotes and historic illustrations and photographs.
2. The Truth About Grizzlies: This section presented scientifically accurate information about bear biology, dispelling many of the myths surrounding the legendary predator. The section’s topics included what we knew about California grizzlies before the extinction, the differences between the California black bear and grizzly bear, where grizzlies can be found today, and the lessons learned from the loss of California grizzly that can be applied to other threatened species.
3. Bears In Our Imagination: Today, the California grizzly lives only in our imaginations as symbols of things desired and things lost. This final section investigated how the image of the California grizzly has been used as an icon, advertiser, and entertainer.
Children’s Area and Hands-On Activities: This exhibition also included sections created especially for children of all ages. It offered a simulated bear den, colorful books and puppets, and special text panels written at a 5th grade reading level to help children understand the story of the California Grizzly. Bear In Mind also provided hands-on interactive displays such as a map showing a timeline of the grizzlies’ demise; comparing and contrasting grizzly size, scat, and paws; and a bear image sorting game.