It’s A-maize-ing! Botanic Garden Hosts Exhibit About Maize

Photo by Eliza Montague '15 | The Exhibit Maize myths of an Ancient Grain opened in the Botanic Garden.

Photo by Eliza Montague ’15 | The Exhibit Maize myths of an Ancient Grain opened in the Botanic Garden.


Anya Gruber ’16
Assistant News Editor

On September 16, the exhibit “Maize: Mysteries of an Ancient Grain” opened in the Lyman Plant House in the Botanic Garden. The exhibit explores the origins, history, and developments in the production and genetic understanding of maize, one of the planet’s most important crops.

“When I heard about this exhibit, produced by the Museum of the Earth in Ithaca, New York and the National Science Foundation, I immediately thought it would be a great exhibit for us to display,” said Madelaine Zadik, the manager of education and outreach for the Botanic Garden, of her interest in bringing the exhibit to Smith. The exhibit was installed here at Smith with some help from students.

The exhibit traces the history of maize throughout time, beginning in the ancient world when it was first domesticated to its modern production and uses, going into detail on Charles Darwin’s contributions to the study of the grain.

Zadik pointed out the relevance of the crop to modern agriculture and production of many different consumer items. “Maize is such an important crop and is such an important part of US Agriculture,” she noted.

The exhibit examines the variety ways that maize it utilized, relating the importance of the crops to more than just agriculture. For example, maize is used to make such things as “green” cell phones and biodegradable disposable cutlery.

The exhibit also has a strong focus on the biological aspect of the crop, another factor in Zadik’s interest in having the exhibit come to Smith. The exhibit has a number of profiles on the backgrounds of many scientists who have contributed to understanding the genetics of maize. Said Zadik, “It [the exhibit] shows the career opportunities for those interested in the science of genetics and plant breeding.”

The exhibit has been well received by students. Said Yamanda Kaychouhi ‘16, “I thought this exhibit was really interesting. The profiles on the scientists in the field of genetics were fascinating.” The exhibit has also been bringing students into the Botanic Garden in general; Victoria Melnikova ’16 went to see the exhibit and found herself exploring the whole of the Botanic Garden. “I found it fascinating because plants from all over the world are displayed there,” she said. Melnikova added, “also, it is helpful academically…bio classes use it, art classes use it.”

There will be a number of events accompanying the exhibit. On Friday, November 15, at 3:30 in the McConnell Foyer will be a talk and discussion with corn geneticist to Edward Buckler about plants and genetic research entitled “Let’s Talk Corn!” There will be refreshments. Edward Buckler will also be holding a formal lecture on November 15 at 7:30 in McConnell Hall, in room 103, followed by a reception in Lyman Plant House.

Maize: Mysteries of an Ancient  Grain will be open through December 15, 2013. For more information on the exhibit, visit The Botanic Garden of Smith College and the Lyman Plant House are open 8:30-4:00 daily.

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