Anthropocene Milestones: Illustrating the Path to the Age of Humans

What do the Altamira cave, the spinning jenny, the scanning tunneling microscope, the telephone, and the Apollo mission have in common? One, these items and events are on display at the Deutsches Museum, and two, they represent important milestones that have paved the way to a new geological “age of humans” called the Anthropocene. Proposed by various researchers in early 2000, the exact beginnings of this era is still a matter of serious debate. Nonetheless, the scientific community agrees that humankind has become a geological factor; our impact on Earth can be legitimately attributed to its own epoch.

Unfortunately, many of the objects representing historical Anthropocene milestones are on permanent display at the Deutsches Museum and cannot be removed. With this in mind, Henning Wagenbreth, a professor of illustration in visual communication at the University of the Arts (UdK), Berlin, and his students bring us closer to these revolutionary innovations by illustrating them in 30 eight-panel comic strips. This project, completed with the editorial work of Alexandra Hamann, academic supervision of Reinhold Leinfelder, and professional guidance of Helmuth Trischler, presents in a creative way the increasingly significant geological footprints of humans on the planet.

The comic strips will be on display alongside the actual objects exhibited at the Deutsches Museum, in cooperation with the Rachel Carson Center (RCC), in the special exhibition "Welcome to the Anthropocene - The Earth in Our Hands", the world’s first exhibition on the exciting concept of the Anthropocene, in December 2014. They will also be published as a book accompanying the Anthropocene exhibition.

In the coming weeks, the Environment & Society Portal will publish one comic strip per week on the Portal blog leading up to the special exhibition "Welcome to the Anthropocene: The Earth in Our Hands". Each comic is accompanied by a sketch of the actual object from the permanent exhibition at the Deutsches Museum, a short description by Alexandra Hamann of why this object is considered an Anthropocene milestone and a few personal thoughts from the artists considerimg their experience with the work.

We hope you enjoy reading about these important milestones, and visit the Deutsches Museum's special exhibition on the Anthropocene in December 2014.

Alexandra Hamann, Author and Media Designer, Director of the Bildungsagentur MINT-Wissen, Berlin, Reinhold Leinfelder, Professor of Geology and Paleontology, WG Anthropocene Research, Freie Universität Berlin, Carson Professor at the RCC, Helmuth Trischler, Research Director at the Deutsches Museum, Director of the Rachel Carson Center, Professor of Modern History and the History of Technology at LMU Munich, and Henning Wagenbreth, Professor of Illustration at the University of the Arts (Universität der Künste), Berlin.

Comic strips:

Anthropocene Milestones No. 1: Altamira - Marcus Gruber
Anthropocene Milestones No. 2: Robotics - Daniela David-Spickermann
Anthropocene Milestones No. 3: Steam Engine - Marina Porras Chassignet
Anthropocene Milestones No. 4: Biotechnology - Till Lukat
Anthropocene Milestones No. 5: Hertz – Electromagnetic waves - Csenge Kindli
Anthropocene Milestones No. 6: A 300 Mass Tourism - Riikka Laakso
Anthropocene Milestones No. 7: Permanent Disposal of Nuclear Waste - Nika Korniyenko
Anthropocene Milestones No. 8: Waste - Leo Koppelkamm
Anthropocene Milestones No. 9: Bessemer Process - Klára Zahrádková
Anthropocene Milestones No. 10: X-Rays - René Thoms
Anthropocene Milestones No. 11: Solar Energy - Sophie Artz
Anthropocene Milestones No. 12: Diesel Engine - Bastian Wienecke
Anthropocene Milestones No. 13: Walchensee Hydroelectric Power Station - Dennis Gärtner
Anthropocene Milestones No. 14: Oceanography - Wyn Tiedmers
Anthropocene Milestones No. 15:  Linotype - Eric Reh
Anthropocene Milestones No. 16: Scanning Tunneling Microscope /Nano Technology - Martha Burger
Anthropocene Milestones No. 17: Telephone - Anders Emil Sommerfeldt
Anthropocene Milestones No. 18: Apollo Mission – Moon Landing - Jacqueline Pulsack
Anthropocene Milestones No. 19:  Zuse Z4 - Benedikt Rohlmann
Anthropocene Milestones No. 20: Genetic Engineering - Jonathan Hadari
Anthropocene Milestones No. 21: Mining - Ruohan Wang
Anthropocene Milestones No. 22: America and the Transatlantic Triangle Trade - Daniela David-Spickermann
Anthropocene Milestones No. 23: Shaft Drill - Hans Lichtenwagner
Anthropocene Milestones No. 24: Nuclear Fission - Christian Lindemann
Anthropocene Milestones No. 25: Machine Tools - Marina Porras Chassignet
Anthropocene Milestones No. 26: Theodolite - Leo Koppelkamm
Anthropocene Milestones No. 27: Spinning Jenny - Milena Bassen
Anthropocene Milestones No. 28: Mass Spectrometer / Geologic Eras - Nika Korniyenko
Anthropocene Milestones No. 29: Zwitscherautomat / Twittering Machine - Marcus Gruber
Anthropocene Milestones No. 30: MIPAS - Martyna Zalalyte