The natural resources collections offer centuries of evidence about how Americans have used the bounty of the American continent and coastal waters. Artifacts related to flood control, dam construction, and irrigation illustrate the nation's attempts to manage the natural world. Oil-drilling, iron-mining, and steel-making artifacts show the connection between natural resources and industrial strength.
Forestry is represented by saws, axes, a smokejumper's suit, and many other objects. Hooks, nets, and other gear from New England fisheries of the late 1800s are among the fishing artifacts, as well as more recent acquisitions from the Pacific Northwest and Chesapeake Bay. Whaling artifacts include harpoons, lances, scrimshaw etchings in whalebone, and several paintings of a whaler's work at sea. The modern environmental movement has contributed buttons and other protest artifacts on issues from scenic rivers to biodiversity.
- On March 24, 1989 the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, off the coast of Alaska. Almost 11 million gallons of crude oil spilled into the sea, the largest oil spill in United States history. The resulting oil slick contaminated 1,300 miles of coastline and killed over 200,000 sea birds and sea mammals such as otters, seals, and killer whales. The clean-up cost over 2.2 billion dollars.
- Environmental disasters are often used to galvanize public support for reform; the Exxon Valdez accident is a perfect example. This button was produced to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the event.
- Currently not on view
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- National Museum of American History
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