Early Spring: Henry Thoreau and Climate Change

Henry David Thoreau is best known for his ethical and environmental writing. For the last ten years of his life, he devoted a portion of every day to a large-scale project to gather and analyze data on the changing phenomena of the seasons. This science is called phenology.

From April 12–September 15, 2013, Early Spring: Henry Thoreau and Climate Change was on view at the Concord Museum. This ground-breaking exhibition explored 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-century observations of seasonal natural phenomena in Concord, which has made the town one of the best places in the world to study climate change. The exhibition also provided an opportunity to examine the Museum’s Thoreau collection together with examples of Thoreau’s field notes, seasonal charts, and botanical specimens.

This online exhibition walks you through Early Spring and brings together new material for an extraordinary experience. The story of Thoreau and climate change unfolds in the context of historical objects such as Thoreau’s snowshoes and his Walden desk. Hear a soundscape of Walden Pond and listen to Guest Scholar Richard Primack on climate change in Concord. Learn how to measure snow, read Thoreau’s essay “Autumnal Tints,” track butterfly migration, and more. We invite you to Be Thoreau.

Thoreau sat for a photograph twice in his life, the last time in 1861 with E.S. Dunshee.

Guest Scholar Richard Primack of Boston University speaks on film about Early Spring.

To Learn More

Read the New York Times Book Review essay by Andrea Wulf, “A Man for All Seasons,” April 19, 2013.

Read Early Spring Guest Scholar Richard Primack’s Op-Ed in the New York Times, April 18, 2012.

Explore the Thoreau Collection at the Concord Museum.

Background photo credit: Alice Wellington

Photo/film credits: David Bohl; Cherrie Corey; Six One Seven Studios