Today, we visited two exhibits at the National Museum of Natural History. We visited the Ocean Hall and the Hall of Human Origins. Our guide was one of the museum’s paleontologists, who informed us of how the museum approached the exhibits, and some of the changes that have occurred in the display of natural history specimens.
In the Ocean Hall I noticed a lot of “what can you do to help” blurbs and “how do we know this information” weaved throughout the exhibit. The staff member guiding us around mentioned that the museum strives to inform and educate the public rather than try to force an opinion on visitors. Using these interpretive tools creates transparency between the museum and visitors because the museum is explaining the research in an accessible way.
The Hall of Human Origins is an exhibit about human evolution, which is another controversial topic. The museum has the collection objects that demonstrate evolution and use the objects as a starting point for discussing evolution. The exhibit is designed with the objects and research that the Smithsonian Institution has conducted as the focus. The museum has the information and evidence to support the idea of evolution. Since evolution is a controversial topic, some visitors may try to refute the existence of evolution, but the visitor does not have the evidence to back up the lack of evolution. Evolution will likely always be controversial, but natural history museums have the responsibility to discuss the topic and educate the visitors about the current research.