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Re: Museology

If I may contribute a concept from my own discipline, what many of the 
list are asking can be categorized as "Break the fourth wall." The 
"fourth wall" is that transparent one which, in Ibsen's realistic 
theater, separated the audience from the action. Museums usually still 
have it: the action is sealed off from us.  Many of the posts have 
wittily invented ways to become part of the action. Other posts praised 
ways in which (in SF and AMNH) a total "environment" as we call it, is 
created using sound and light which enveloped you inside the action. I 
recognize spots in the SF museum Betty mentions (my kid was there Sunday) 
and as she notes, even the moving water adds to the reality. And the kids 
specially love the giant bugs (just plastic models) which play supporting 
roles. Shall these dry bones live?   
Phil beautifully summed up the intellectual and pedagogical value:
>the most important
>principle is the re-creation of the alien world which lived here a long time
>ago, with enough connections to get a sense of the reality of that world and
>the way it worked and the way we know about it.
I second that, as one goal. If you want to see a masterpiece of 
"environment," try the Monterey Bay Aquarium. But Tom, if you really want 
to stretch your imagination of what is possible, go to the Holocaust 
museums in LA or in DC. I've only read about the latter, but the former 
uses devices to involve you which are so sophisticated-- well, they had 
the best minds in Hollywood available to them. The Children's Discovery 
Museum in San Jose would give you a vision of kids learning science while 
having the time of their lives. 
    I think kids matter so much here because dinosaurs are the great door 
into science. I imagine a high percentage of scientists started out with 
a book that had a picture of T Rex somewhere on its cover. Paleontology 
is the outreach program of the entire scientific community, if they but 
knew it. 


George J. Leonard, Ph.D. 
Professor of Interdisciplinary Humanities
San Francisco State University
530 Humanities Hall
1600 Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, California, 94132
Ph: (415) 338-7428
FAX: (650) 366-5045
Website: http://www.georgeleonard.com