Great Expectations

March 17 - June 30, 2016

by Lugene Bruno

There is great expectation in the promise and energy held within a bud or a seed, and phases of this continuous cycle of plant development are beautifully illustrated with collection items. Artworks by 36 historical and contemporary artists illustrate their individual observations of intriguing moments of developing stages that may occur over a period of months or even years. Each plant’s existence relies on the ability to time emergence during optimum conditions, to process nutrients and energy through photosynthesis and cellular respiration and to reproduce through their interaction with other organisms and natural phenomena on the earth.


What are often considered the beginning and end of a plant’s growing season are instead part of a continuous cycle of emergence, growth and dormancy. The seed of a flowering plant, having been dispersed by wind, water, animal or other means, lies dormant in the soil, protected by nutrient-rich tissue and an outer seed coat. Only after sufficient light, moisture and warmth are available will the embryo begin to develop a root and stem system along with one or two seed leaves (cotyledons). Growth continues through photosynthesis and cellular respiration. Buds form and petals open to expose pathways to pollen and nectar that encourage fertilization. After fertilization a seed develops and, when mature, is released near or far afield to lie dormant until conditions reoccur that permit the cycle to continue. In contrast, a bulb, rhizome or corm lies dormant underground. When conditions are ideal, a stem, leaves and ultimately flowers emerge while the roots absorb moisture and nutrients. Although fertilization of the flower ovary may occur so that seeds form, mature and disperse, this is not essential for survival. As the leaves and stem die back after flowering, below ground the bulblets, rhizomes and cormels are developing from the parent structures and storing nutrients for the following year’s reemergence. This is an opportunity to study more closely details of these wonders of nature.


Opening reception

The opening reception on 17 March (5–7 pm) is open to the public. Beginning at 5:30 p.m. the curators will give an introduction to the exhibition.


Tour of the Carrie Furnace landscape

A tour of the landscape around the Carrie Furnaces in Rankin, PA, will be held on Saturday, 21 May, 11:00 am–12:30 pm. “The Iron Garden: History and ecology of the Carrie Furnaces” focuses on the diverse, successional plant communities of the site and how human history shapes our urban environments. It will be led by Dr. Anna Johnson, ecological researcher at the University of Pittsburgh, in conjunction with Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area staff. The tour will focus also on the making of the Iron Garden plaques, for which the Hunt Institute provided images. These cast iron plaques were placed throughout the site in 2015 as part of a collaboration among artists, Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area and the Penn State Master Gardeners to highlight the diverse plant life that has recolonized after the furnaces closed. A staff member from Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area will also provide historical context of the site during the tour. Please contact Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area (412-464-4020;; for more information and to purchase a ticket ($15). Sign up as soon as possible because tour group size is capped at 25 people.


Open House 2016

Our annual Open House on Sunday, 26 June (1:00–4:30 pm) will include the talk “Forward into the past: The past, present and future of Carrie Furnaces” (1:30–2:30 pm) by Ronald A. Baraff, director of Historic Resources and Facilities, Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, in which he will discuss how the arts, nature, preservation and aesthetics interplay with the historic at the Carrie Furnaces. Following the talk will be tours of the Great Expectations exhibition and the reading room (2:30–4:00 pm). This event is free and open to the public.


Cabinet of curiosities

On display from 19 January to 30 June 2016 in the Cabinet of curiosities in the Hunt Institute lobby is a two-leaf fragment of a handwritten copy of the Macer Floridus estimated to be from the mid-12th century, as well as several early printed editions. Until Sunday hours resume with the exhibition opening, stop by the Institute during our normal business hours (Monday–Friday, 9 am–noon and 1–5 pm) to see this fragment from our Archives, which is the oldest item in our collections, and the printed edition from 1477, which is the oldest printed book in our Library.



The exhibition will be on display on the 5th floor of the Hunt Library building at Carnegie Mellon University and will be open to the public free of charge. Hours: Monday–Friday, 9 am–noon and 1–5 pm; Sunday, 1–4 pm (except 25–27 March, 1 May and 29–30 May). Because our hours of operation are occasionally subject to change, please call or email before your visit to confirm. For further information, contact the Hunt Institute at 412-268-2434.

  • Donguri [Acorn, Quercus Linnaeus, Fagaceae], acrylic, gouache and pencil on paper by Kieta Yonezu (1943–), 1982, 30 × 46 cm, for Rureberukan, Donguri (Chiyodaku, Tokyo, Kanda Ogawamachi, 1983), HI Art accession no. 6838.