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Re: Where we learn

OK, OK, I said I wasn't going to respond to this thread anymore, but I
felt I had to respond to this one.

On Sun, 10 Aug 1997 17:22:43 -0400 (EDT) MBell16766@aol.com writes:
>After many really stimulating and thoughtful communications on this 
>topic, I
>think Larry has arrived at the center of this issue of the role of
>commercialization and the museum. He states that kids ( and adults ) 
>have sources they can rely upon for information about the world. 
>says that " whatever learning I did went on >outside< the classroom: 
>>>doing<< homework assignments, in visiting the library, in voracious
>reading." I agree.

Marilyn vos Savant does too. In today's _Parade_ magazine, she quotes a
figure of 9 percent as the total amount of a kid's time spent in school. 
So kids learn more outside of school than in, by default.

>But I would like to add "museum"  to that list. My 
>( I was lucky enough to have several in Minneapolis) were churches for 
>fact, Sunday was the day you would talk a parent or neighbor into 
>going to
>some weekend program. As a child ( or as a naive adult ) you DO rely 
>them for the truth.  What are you doing when you knowingly mount an
>inaccurate exhibit IN A MUSEUM?   There are other arenas for 
>and speculation. 

And the museum is competing with them, so it must have felt justified in
joining them rather than beating them.

>There was just a big dino show down at the mall. 
>There are
>very socially complex and delicate issues that we deal with in 
>vis-a-vis the evolution vs. creation issues. An institution like the 
>Museum of Natural History should really think long and hard about 
>topics as well should the Dinosaur Society. In fact the Dinosaur 
>much to its credit, has done a lot of soul searching and reevaluation 
>some very difficult lines in the recent past. 

Yes, but they have taken advantage of the Jurassic Park craze too, with
Spielberg loaning them the items for their traveling exhibit so they can
make money for dinosaur research.  I suspect purists will call this foul
even though it is of a different caliber.  Is the Dinosaur Society going
to drop the exhibit?  Or do future ones in a different way?

>Above all we have to 
>trust our
>institutions. If kids ( or adults) smell the slightest sign of a 
>friendly arm
>around a lie, it will take forever to reinstate their trust. Henry 
>Osborn, W.D.Matthew, William King Gregory, Charles R. Knight, Edwin
>H.Colbert, Barnum Brown, and many, many others dedicated their lives 
>giving us only the very best and, what they thought, the most truthful
>answers they could give us. Anything less offered to our children 
>would be,at
>the very least, an affront to their names and work.
>During this series of very thoughtful exchanges, I have often been 
>haunted by
>the ghostly images of the above-mentioned men at the exhibit sometime 
>midnight at the AMNH and what their reactions might be. I have a 
>feeling that
>even Roy Chapman Andrews might have shaken his head before he climbed 
>his 1922 Dodge and sped away to those Flaming Cliffs in the sky...
>This has been fun and useful, Thanks All, Dan Varner.   

The AMNH was _my_ church when I was young, so please forgive the
passionate defense of an exhibit I've never seen, and their motives.  It
is hard for me to believe that the museum's motives were nothing more
than to make money for other great programs and expeditions, just as the
Dinosaur Society's motives were to raise money for grants for dinosaur
research.  From the gentle way you have put your thoughts, though, I
think AMNH may have betrayed the memories of Charles Knight, Barnum
Brown, et al., which I fully regret, and do not defend in any way.  I am
now embarrassed for myself and for them.

AMNH perhaps should have put together additional labels that said "See
our exhibit in hall [blank] for the real thing!" that they could have
scattered throughout the JP exhibit.  But perhaps Mercedes and Spielberg
wouldn't have let them do that. If I were the AMNH I would have at least
set up a free exhibit pamphlet that guided you through the JP exhibit and
corrected errors.  

But if the exhibit is blatantly labeled as a product, not of the museum,
but of a self-interested sponsor, I'd like to think most folks know the
difference and will not consider it a museum endorsement.  Then again,
just putting a cart outside the AMNH is enough for some folks to assume
an endorsement.  I wonder if AMNH had a disclaimer to that effect
anywhere in the exhibit?  If not, they should have.

I still don't think a commercial exhibit per se is necessarily a bad
thing, as long as it is handled correctly.

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