The Good Life at the Florida Museum Understanding conservation and ecological appreciation

Introduction

The Smithsonian faces a challenge over the next few decades: as audiences find new educational and entertaining mediums, how do museums survive as monuments to human knowledge and discovery? The Florida Museum of Natural History attempts to solve this by making the exhibitions larger than life, more powerful in delivery, and useful as jumping points for social ideals such as nature conservation. Taking a stroll through aquamarine, human, and other displays, I have found that a Good Life is not only found through personal discovery but also through the knowledge of nature and its preservation.

Nature on Display

The sheer scale in which the Florida Museum exhibited its underwater creatures and vegetation defined itself from the usual YouTube documentaries and online museum guides.

Through lighting and models, we can fully immerse ourselves in the museum's argument that natural history is worth it. In a sense, the museum is attempting to simulate the awestruck feelings that the original discoverers and researchers might have felt decades ago. Lectures and online tours can only go so far: we need to see and feel the real deal in order to fully empathize with the efforts of our academic forefathers.

Especially in this exhibit, we can grasp the enormity that is the ocean and the numerous types of wildlife that reside in its depths. This is a feeling that cannot be expressed in traditional academic or entertainment mediums, and makes the museum a unique location for sensory-based understanding.

Nature and Ethics

The museum is taking substantial measures to engage people beyond the usual "disinterested staring" that commonly plagues technical exhibitions.

Through immersive storytelling and concise descriptions of various plantlife, animals and human history, we are able to absorb the more accessible aspects of our natural history. However, it will take much more innovation and perhaps a renovation on the meaning of "museum" to full instill a feeling of ethical responsibility to the environment. People are willing to engage themselves in the huge and bold, yet skip over the placards filled with paragraphs about climate change or losses of ecology. This means that the exhibits themselves must take on the role of entertainment and education at once, without fully relying on the small square pieces of text to its side.

Exhibitions like this better integrate the relatable and the didactic: we find facts on our refrigerator, and in the windows to the outside, and within our cabinets rather than through instruction manuals or long-winded paragraphs attempting to inspire renewable energy. Through the practical we can attain the ideal.

Nature and the Human Spirit

Our ordinary lives are filled with laptops, textbooks and television shows. The Florida Museum provides an escape from our ordinary lives into the lives of our past selves.
Through nearly living and breathing exhibits we can inhabit what might have been hundreds or thousands of years ago. And in our intuitive study of ancient humanity, we can compare and contrast to our own lives: are we living as Good of a Life as we want? Did our ancient relatives live the Good Life? What lessons can we take from them? The majesty of the natural world is found through the thousands of years of knowledge we can take from past civilizations and groups that lived right in our back door.
Lastly, I found small touches such as this interactive exhibit hugely important to how we perceive our surroundings. With a touch of a button we can learn that natural history is not so historical: familiar sounding birds resonate with people, and allow us to understand that we're not that far removed from the ancient humans. And for those who are interested in birds or other animal-life, being able to actively gain information about their pastimes only make the Florida Museum more accessible, more insightful, and more worthwhile than ever before.
Created By
Dominic Alhambra
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