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The Nature of the Imagination

Before landing on the North Pole, Elizabeth Arnold and her fellow plane travelers were warned that there was a crack on the ice. The plane, and Elizabeth, made it. Photo: Elizabeth Arnold

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All of us—even those who never leave the backyard—can clearly picture distant locales. (Quick! Imagine the Amazon!) Why is that? In this hour we try to answer.

We peer into habitats frozen in time at the American Museum of Natural History. We watch nature documentaries with David Attenborough. We travel to the North Pole—really—to see what there is to see. And, finally, we visit a place where imagination will just have to do: Mt. Kailash in Western Tibet, whose summit is home to the gods and – naturally – off limits to humans.

90 Degrees North
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Arnold

90 Degrees North
North Pole ~ At the top of the planet, unmoored ice speeds over the North Pole. Elizabeth Arnold heads north and tries to set foot on it. Produced by Elizabeth Arnold.

Web Exclusives:

  • Interview w/ Producer Elizabeth Arnold
  • More photos from Elizabeth's journey in our Photo Gallery

    Nature Junkies
    United States ~ Seeing nature is a need, like eating or sleeping. But a lot of people can't go out and sit in the woods once a week. No time. No woods nearby. So what do you do? Ariel has 75 wildlife documentaries in her Netflix queue. Dave and Melissa unwind with Animal Planet. Donal visits far flung jungles in Hi Def from his family room. The revolution will not be televised. But nature will be. And it's a big hit. Produced by Sean Cole.

    A Window in Time
    Belmore Browne painting a background for the Alaska Brown bear diorama in the Hall of North American Mammals. Photo courtesy of Stephen C. Quinn.

    A Window in Time
    New York ~ For a century, while their living counterparts have grown, mated, died and—sometimes—vanished, the meticulously taxidermied animals at the American Museum of Natural History have held their heads just so. For many visitors, this is as close as they ever get to nature. We take a tour of the diorama hall with senior project manager at the Museum, Steve Quinn. Produced by Ann Heppermann and Kara Oehler.

    Web Exclusive:

  • Read an interview w/ producers Ann Heppermann and Kara Oehler
  • More photos from this story in our Photo Gallery.

    (Photos are from "Windows on Nature: The Great Habitat Dioramas of the American Museum of Natural History" by Stephen C. Quinn - senior project manager at the Museum.)

    Fred Scherer pt. 1: Dogs

    Fred Scherer pt. 2: On James Perry Wilson

    Web Only Audio:
    Artist Fred Scherer

    As a special feature for our web audience, we are providing bonus audio clips not available in the original broadcast.

    Listen as Fred Scherer, veteran background painter at the American Museum of Natural History, talks about his experiences and adventures researching and creating dioramas.

    Web Links:

    Circling the Center of Creation
    Mt. Kailash, Tibet ~ Mt. Kailash is one of the world’s most venerated—and least visited—holy sites. Walking its circuit alongside pilgrims, yaks and yogis, Scott Carrier finds out why. Produced by Scott Carrier.

    Web Links:

  • Production: Atlantic Public Media. Curated by Jay Allison and Emily Botein.
    Funding: Supported by The Nature Conservancy and Visa.

    The Nature ConservancyVisa

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