Continents Collide: The Appalachians and the Himalayas

January 14, 2012–May 20, 2012

Southward view in the fall from the Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesville, NC
Summit of Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world (8,850 meters above sea level), as viewed from Rongbuk Valley, Tibet
Tilted layers of gneiss in the Chattooga River, GA-SC
Metamorphic rocks injected by lighter granite veins on a vertical cliff with glacial ice above and below, near Cho La Pass (5,300 meters) in the region southwest of Mount Everest

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Curated by professor and distinguished scientist Robert D. Hatcher Jr. and assistant professor Micah Jessup, both from UT’s Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, this exhibition focuses on the formation of mountain ranges and the forces that continually alter them. Our own beautiful landscapes of East Tennessee and western North Carolina—part of the Appalachian Mountains, whose genesis was more than 250 million years ago—is one focus of the exhibit; the other is the striking and rugged Himalaya Mountains, the much younger and still-rising result of tectonic movements, the global effects of which we learn about often in the news.

Introducing the subject in the gallery will be a fifteen minute video, created by award-winning producer Steve Dean (creator of the Heartland Series) and featuring views of a number of sites in the Blue Ridge and Smokies sections of the Appalachians, as well as original images of Himalayan locales and the Tibetan plateau. The dynamics of plate tectonics and processes of erosion are explained in animated segments.

Breathtaking as the surface topography may be, the exhibit will also delve into the structure of the respective ranges, as that is where the keys to the how and the why may be found. Three-dimensional maps, video animations, and rocks will show visitors how we know what we know, and perhaps give viewers a new way to look at the world and landscape around them. The past, the present, and the tectonic future await.