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Re: Another View (Was Review of AMNH Lost World Exhibit)

On Sat, 9 Aug 1997 21:48:30 +0000 dunn1@IDT.NET writes:
>> From:          jamolnar@juno.com
>> >Kids do not question everything they learn in school, especially at 
>> >the pre-college level.  I submit that they question very little 
>> >of it.  Even many colleges today do not teach students to think 
>> >critically. 
>> You didn't answer my point.  I submit kids don't just learn in 
>> They eventually get exposed to other versions of myths, dinosaur 
>> etc.  They don't have to question it consciously, but they do notice 
>> differences.  Then they begin to form questions, even if it is the 
>> one of "who's right?"
>If a kid learns about classical mythology, where does the kid learn 
>about it?  Most likely in school.  What information do kids value 
>most highly as authoritative?  Most likely what they learn in school. 
> I think it goes without saying that a defending curriculum that 
>relies on the television program "Hercules" to teach about mythology 
>because the kids *may* pick up the truth somewhere else is absurd.

Of course it is absurd, and I was not defending the curriculum.  I was
saying that _if_ the situation existed, that there would be little harm
in it because _eventually_ kids will learn that there are other versions
of the stories out there from other sources (the local paper on that
night's constellations, other stories that steal from the myths, library
books, even other movies).  At some point the question comes up -- which
version is correct?  If the subject is not interesting to the kids, they
won't think up this question and it's not important (except in the sense
that they are deprived of some culture).  If they are interested in
myths, they will seek out more stories and find out the different
versions themselves.  But if they did not hear the stories at all to
begin with, regardless of the version, they would not have had their
interest piqued.

>Most kids do not learn all that much about dinosaurs in school 
>although this of course varies from school to school.  What are the 
>most widely recognized public institutions concerning dinosaurs?  And 
>what effect does it have on a kid to go to, say,  the AMNH and see 
>the validation of the inaccuracies in the *other* major source for 
>most kids concerning dinosaurs today, the JP movies?

Not as much as you think.  I'd really like to know how many of the people
who went to the JP exhibit at the AMNH also walked the fossil halls? And
how much learning took place because of it?

>I occasionally visited the website of a JP fanatic who had on the 
>site, among other things, a chat board.  When I saw posts concerning 
>dinosaur information I tried in my humble way to offer some 
>information about the dinosaurs misrepresented in the movies.  
>Convincing these kids of the truth about velociraptor was not easy, 
>and many to this day refuse to accept that velociraptor was as small 
>as it was.  They are now equally convinced that tyrannosaurs had 
>lairs.  I could further elaborate.

And I could tell you just as many stories with any kid that comes to see
our exhibit too. You will always find boneheaded people like that at any
age.  So what?  *The movie got them to come to our exhibit* and we had a
chance to correct the information.  We can't force people to accept the
correct information, but we can provide it.  But *we can't provide it if
we can't get people to come in the door first.*

>> >The Lost World exhibit 
>> >is selling Mercedes cars and Spielberg movies at the American 
>> >of Natural History.  This should not be the goal of the museum.
>> And it isn't the goal of the museum. 
>Correct.  Let me clarify.  It is the goal of the sponsors of 
>the exhibit to do these things; it's the goal of the museum to shut 
>up, present the whole gigantic advertisement as is and get their 
>piece of the door. 

And use the money to correct misinformation about dinosaurs and other
natural history.

>> > If that's what you got out of the exhibit, the fault may not be 
>the museum's.
>Take it from someone who has actually seen the exhibit. 

Others who have seen it disagree with your interpretation.  Some people
will get your impression, but not everyone. Give credit to the people and
kids who can tell the difference between entertainment and straight
facts.  You seem to assume no one who sees this exhibit has any brains. 
Some do.  Some do and don't use them.  Nothing we can do about that.

>The infotainment videos are presented by actors from the movie.  The 
>Stan Winston animatronic dinosaurs are front and center in an 
>elaborate jungle display; the real mounts are crammed around the 
>walls; from the mezzanine you can't really even see the dinosaur 
>mounts -- you can only see the front-and-center animatronic 
>dinosaurs.  The movie logo is splashed everywhere.  The toys are for 
>sale at the end of the exhibit.
>> We've taken their money and put their logo all over _their_ 
>> exhibit banners.  
>It's a shame that this happens.  This is quite the hot trend these 
>days -- throw some environmental cause a bone in exchange for 
>recognition, make some pro-environment commercials, keep polluting.  
>People think you're "Green" and you only spend a small fraction of 
>the cost required for compliance with the law.  Notwithstanding the 
>fact that you've apparently converted some polluters, believe me, I 
>know my share of corporate executives as well as their business 
>strategies and they do it for what's in it for them.

And being eco-conscious is good business sense. No one needs the bad
press of being labeled a polluter. Pollution means your company is
inefficient, since it is making too much waste.  No company can afford to
do that for long anyway.  So, they clean up their act, eventually.  And I
will take the bones they throw, as you so poetically put it, because it's
to both our mutual benefits.  If the money would end up in an ad campaign
that says "Aren't we great?" versus to the museum, and they get the same
PR effect out of either option, then why not give it to us for the
symbiosis, I say!

>> Mercedes & Spielberg didn't dictate that their logos were on any
>> other AMNH exhibits, did they? Just banners for their exhibit.
>Why does that matter?  People at the LW exhibit went in expecting to 
>learn about dinosaurs.  

Are you sure?  Or did they go into the _museum_ to learn about dinosaurs
and they went into the _movie_ exhibit to learn about how the movie did
dinosaurs and who they were?

>> Our compromise is for our interpreters to let people know about
>> the errors and enjoy them anyway.  We're not going to refuse certain
>> models because new information has made them obsolete.  We work with
>> them.  Some compromises, you have to work with.
>You shouldn't confuse your dinamation experiences (which are 
>unavoidable and your strategy exemplary) with this exhibit -- the 
>marketing strategy of getting the movie dinosaurs and big color 
>glossies of Goldblum, Moore et al into museums is the *goal*, not a 
>necessary compromise.  The exhibit does not point out the 
>inaccuracies of the movie.  Why should it?  Who put it together?

The Dinamation exhibit doesn't point out their inaccuracies either.  All
they want to do is rent out the machines and split the take with someone.

It's obvious we are going to agree to disagree about this, so I'm no
longer responding to this thread.  

I'm tired of defending museums that do what they can to get the public's
attention, because they have to compete with MTV, movies, video games and
everything else to get people in the doors.  I'm tired of museums being
considered no better than prostitutes for soliciting money or running
exhibits from "tainted" corporate sponsors. 
How many companies are completely "untainted" environmentally, with OSHA
standards, wage laws, etc?  Would you like to do all our screening for
us?  For free?

I'd be really surprised to find anyone out there who is totally
"untainted" by any compromise for any cause.  The ends shouldn't justify
the means, but if you won't get to the end _at all_ without some
not-so-pure means, then you do what you can.

Judy Molnar
Education Associate, Virginia Living Museum
All questions are valid; all answers are tentative.