University of Minnesota students rewrote history Tuesday on the Washington Avenue Bridge. Well, sort of. Along with the Institute for Advanced Study, students created two timelines spanning the length of the bridge by illustrating events picked from a bowl. The event jump-started the institute’s two-year symposium called “Time.”
A series of related events will follow for the institute, focusing on how time is perceived and constructed.
For this, the first event, students used chalk to document historic events. History senior Alex Maleki used yellow chalk to mark the reign of Zar’a Ya’kob, the most powerful ruler of Ethiopia.
Genetics and psychology sophomore Anne Kellerman got creative with her event: next to the potato famine, Kellerman drew two green potatoes.
Maleki and Kellerman took part in the timeline that ran along the bridge’s exterior. Inside was a second timeline documenting the geological past of the Earth.
Economy and political science junior Casey Martin said he had a greater appreciation for time after he struggled to find the appropriate year for Devonian mass extinction on the geological timeline.
He stopped at 30 million years and prepared to write it in chalk, but realized the event actually occurred 360 million years ago – some 330 million years earlier.
“An event like this shows how little humans have impacted the earth in terms of its history,” he said.
Director of the Institute of Advanced Study Ann Waltner said she hoped the timeline event would help familiarize people with the institute’s program.
“We wanted to do something to make ourselves visible to students and make them aware of our upcoming events,” she said.
Waltner, along with institute faculty members and volunteers, began brainstorming which dates and events to use last month.
History fellow Luke Brekke was in charge of researching and compiling the final list, which consisted of 90 geological and 250 historic events.
In addition to dates about kings and presidents, he tried to mix in lesser-known facts like the introduction of coffee and beer, Brekke said.
Historic events that occurred in Minnesota were also included.
They ranged from Norwegian immigration to Minnesota during 1860-1870s, to the Twins winning the baseball World Series in 1987 and 1991.
Managing Director of the Institute of Advanced Study Susannah Smith helped participants find their date on the timelines.
“We tried to create a mix of different kinds of dates in human history such as the development of the safety pin by Walter Hunt in 1849,” she said.
The timeline event also proved that history can be lost in translation.
One slip had the date 6000 B.C. marking the first evidence of domesticated chickens in China. Someone rewrote the event on the timeline as “the invention of the chicken” along with an intricate picture of the bird.