good life and the Florida museum of natural history Alexander Smith, Section 088H, 1/20/17

Cochran, Susan P. X and O. 2015. Sculpture, Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL. By Alexander Smith. "Good Life and the Florida Museum of Natural History." 2017. JPEG.

My time at the Florida Museum of Natural History gave me a unique chance as a UF student to gain a greater understanding of the natural world, from a microscopic to a macroscopic scale. With this understanding also comes a greater responsibility to be a gracious caretaker of our resources, ensuring that future generations can appreciate them accordingly in the future.

NATURE ON DISPLAY

Smith, Alexander. "In the Butterfly Rainforest of the Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL." 2017. JPEG.

At the beginning of the tour, the "nature on display" in this photograph came in the form of the butterfly enclosure that I entered within the museum, seen through this butterfly that happened to land on my arm. The presence of the live butterflies in the enclosure demonstrates an attribute of the exhibit that separates the enclosure from the other exhibits within the museum: a taste of the natural, living world that can be observed in the present, not just as a relic of the past. The design of the enclosure makes it a fitting habitat for the butterflies, surrounded by greenery and climate controlled by the supervisors of the exhibit. The surroundings in all of its greenery stuck out to me especially, showcasing a setting fitting of the natural world that we, as well as the butterflies, occupy. That, in and of itself, is a particular benefit from having a natural enclosure for wildlife such as butterflies, experiencing them first-hand in place of just through pictures, printed words, or even models. Overall, I found the experience at the museum incredible enjoyable, as it was a fitting reminder of the beauty of the natural world and all living elements that inhabit it together.

NATURE AND ETHICS

Purple Nutsedge. Plastic Model. Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL.

Next on the tour, in this piece from the Wicked Plants exhibit at the museum, one can see the Purple Nutsedge (Cyperus rotundus), one of the world's most invasive weeds. As Leopold said that we are obligated to view ourselves as members of a greater community with the plants of this world, we must also have the capacity to fear the destructive potential of plants. This exhibit and this particular model of the Purple Nutsedge gave me that opportunity to see the harm that nature can incur, and how, even so, I am still obligated to live in accord with it as a global citizen. What is particularly striking about the plant is the extent of its size and the manner in which it takes up space across the exhibit site. As other people reacted to the exhibit with a sense of shock and awe at the destructive potential of nature, all who left the exhibit were instilled with an ethical understanding to be the world's caretakers, for all of its good and potential bad alike.

NATURE AND THE HUMAN SPIRIT

Columbian Mammoth. Cast Model. Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, FL.

To end the tour, I reached one of the first exhibits at the museum: a cast model skeleton of a Columbian Mammoth (Mammuthus columbi). At first glance, the most striking thing about the skeleton is its immense size. This is a testament to fragility of human life, especially in the context of the life that has preceded us. This is also a testament to the museum's ability to force us as everyday people to step out of our ordinary lives and acknowledge the inherent beauty and majesty of the natural world. One can only look at the size of a Columbian Mammoth, and consider where life was in the past, where it is presently, and where it may go in the future.

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Alexander Smith
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