Florida Museum of Natural History Hannah Perez

"Make sure you only open one door at a time when you enter!"

The lady at the desk before entering the butterfly exhibit told this to me before I went in. I was actually pretty confused, because I did not know what she meant. There are two doors to enter and a room in between. When I saw the room, I understood that you leave at least one door closed in case a butterfly flies out. I thought of it as a kind of second barrier you had to cross, like this is so important that two doors are required. That is how nature should be treated, accessible, but protected, by at least "two doors". The museum in general displayed the history of Florida and how it has changed as we have developed it. Museums like these preserve an image of how things were in nature, and we need that image because as the landscape changes soon those images will be gone. So the purpose of a natural history museum is to study and consequently protect nature.

Nature on Display

The butterfly garden was the best to walk through. It felt like a tropical paradise at first. It was calm and serene and initially I saw no butterflies, just foliage and nothing moved. I think that is because I was just looking. When I first entered it was like I was not with nature, just some man-made garden. But once I was still for a moment, I noticed the butterflies. It was movement that brought to them. I liked this exhibit because the butterflies were alive. In photographs or reconstructions the butterflies would still be beautiful, but they would not be alive.

Butterfly Garden
Nature and Ethics

There was an exhibit that displayed Florida's natural ecosystems. I saw a recreation of a beach ecosystem, sand, reeds, turtle eggs, seagulls, a picturesque reproduction of the beach. The exhibit also addressed environmental issues that happen as a result of human interactions with nature. I have always thought that we should be gracious to nature. It is always there so often we take it for granted. However the museum's exhibits show you how things have become extinct and changed and it makes you appreciate more what don't have anymore.

Another thing that I saw in the museum was the lepidopterists pinning and archiving butterflies, which I was a little put off by at first. I could not imagine staring at a dead butterfly and pinning it to a board piercing its wings, but here is where lines are blurred. In order to appreciate nature more, it must be studied, and as humans we study it to the full extent of our capabilities. The museum's exhibits showed me that when it comes to nature all resources should be accessed in moderation, even in study, otherwise there would be nothing to study and nothing to protect.

Florida's Waterways exhibit
Nature and the Human Spirit

Sometimes, nature makes us feel small. Ecosystems work so perfectly in homeostasis. Animals are large and powerful. A human could never make something that works as perfectly as nature. A human is fragile and weak, yet we live amongst a vast network of insurmountable natural history. Being in the exhibits alone freaked me out a little bit. There were nature noises being played on speakers, and the exhibits were eerily empty. The exhibits recreated the outside pretty accurately. I didn't want to go into the cave structure in fear of something actually jumping onto me. Of course, that didn't happen, but I couldn't help but jump every time I saw something that I did not expect.

I felt especially small in the fossils exhibit. When I first saw the shark teeth I imagined the teeth closing and how large the aquatic creature could have been. It's amazing that we existed on the same earth. We were sustained by the same sun and water. So although nature in its vastness an make you realize that you are small, the museum also shows you to appreciate what once was and what is possible. With huge badgers and armadillos anything seems possible.

Nature enables the human spirit to dream larger.
Fossils Exhibit


All photos by Hannah Perez

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