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Re: In (premature) defense of the USNM
As a volunteer at NMNH, a Contributing Member of the Smithsonian, a
former geologist/student of paleontology and a life-long habitue of
the museum, I'm actually pretty happy to see this exhibit come in.
As a volunteer in the Discovery Center, I've seen first hand that
attendance numbers have been down since September 11 (though they are
better than they were six months ago). To have something of this
visibility in the museum could hopefully draw people in....and push
them over to the Dinosaur Hall to learn about the real thing. You'd
be surprised how many people come into the museum to see the Hope
Diamond, but don't think to see the dinosaurs, which never ceases to
amaze me. A banner on the front of the museum announcing the
presence of this exhibit can only help bring people in the door.
If you go to the Dinotopia web site, the exhibit appears to be about
more than just the miniseries - it reviews the 10 year history of the
entire series. And if someone going through the exhibit decides they
want to learn more about dinosaurs because of it, then it can't be
all that bad. And it can't be any less commercial than the museum's
dinosaur-themed gift shop: the "Tricerashop".
Is the exhibit scientifically accurate? No...but Gurney admits to
it, as did Dennis O'Connor. Is it appropriate for the Natural
History museum since this is more in the realm of art than science?
Last year the Bucellati jewelry exhibit was definitely more art than
science, yet no one appeared to have an issue with it being in the
Natural History museum because the stones were worked and not in
their natural state.
Also, the Smithsonian has no general art gallery - the National
Gallery is actually a separate entity. So perhaps this could have
gone into American History, or one of the travelling exhibit halls,
but if someone's interest in prehistoric life is piqued by this
exhibit, why have them schlep down and across the Mall in the
oppressive Washington, DC summer weather, when they could go around
the corner to the exhibit on Ancient Life? This way if they have a
question, they can get the correct answer almost immediately, instead
of walking around for an extended period of time thinking that
dinosaurs actually had a written language based on three-toed
Anyone truly interested interested in dinosaurs will know that
Dinotopia is fiction. Teachers bringing school children will know
this. Most of the 4-9 year-old kids will know it (probably better
than their parents). And I'd be surprised if the exhibit didn't
present itself as fiction. The debate may range on the growing
commerciality of the exhibits at the Smithsonian (not something to be
discussed here since it's discussed everywhere else ad nauseam), but
I don't think the Department of Paleobiology would actually stand for
this exhibit standing as fact so close to dinosaur hall.
Falls Church, VA
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