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Humans’ living creations put on display

Center for PostNatural History examines genetic engineering, domestication

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9:00am, October 23, 2013

HUMAN'S HAND  Freckles the silk-spinning goat joins laboratory rats, glowing fish and other displays at Pittsburgh’s Center for PostNatural History. The small museum highlights the role humans have played, through both traditional breeding and engineering, in genetically shaping living things.

Some might say Freckles the goat was a freak. Others would say she was a modern wonder. She was genetically engineered by a Canadian company to produce milk that could be spun into spider silk. The superstrong fibers were intended for high-tech uses like bulletproof vests or artificial tendons, but in 2009 the company went bankrupt. A taxidermied Freckles now greets visitors to a tiny storefront in Pittsburgh.

Her new home is the Center for PostNatural History, a museum opened in 2012 by Richard Pell, who teaches electronic media art at Carnegie Mellon University. Pell curates the museum and also tends the front desk.

As visitors pass through a curtain to enter the darkened exhibition space, they see a spectacularly fluffy white ornamental chicken and an aquarium full of glowing fish. Pell classifies both the silkie chicken and the GloFish®, genetically engineered to produce fluorescent jellyfish proteins, as &ldquo

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