Good life: The Museum of Natural History By: Jonathan Manipadam

Introduction:

This spark story is based on my visit to the Museum of Natural History for my class The Good Life. In this spark I will relate some of my experiences at the museum as well as various aspects of nature. This spark is divided into three main segments which are: Nature on Display, Nature and Ethics, as well as Nature and the Human Spirit.

Nature on Display

The exhibit of the Natural History Museum that was most appealing to me was the Hall of Florida Fossils and Evolution. What immediately captured my attention with this exhibit, was the alien nature of the fossils which were displayed here. Throughout the exhibit, were the bones of incredible creatures so strange that it's almost hard to believe that they ever existed. Furthermore, I think the exhibit also appealed to me because of its atmosphere. Rather than plain concrete walls, the exhibit’s walls were covered in jagged rock that created the illusion of a cave.

Something that the exhibit was able to convey, that another medium may not have, is the enormity and exact scale of the fossils on display. Reading about the animals that were displayed online no doubt could have given the same information displayed on the exhibits many plaques. However, walking through the exhibit allowed me to observe the fossil's first hand. When you look at a picture of giant sloth or mammoth on a computer, it just doesn’t have the same impact as standing next to the real thing(or slightly fake thing created to scale). Personally, the most enjoyable aspect of the museum was the way the exhibits were created to immerse visitors in various worlds. Rather than displaying artifacts in plain glass display cases, the exhibits were made to replicate aspects of the cultures and locations in which the artifacts/fossils originated.

Nature and Ethics

Unfortunately, I don’t feel as though the Natural History Museum allowed me to experience nature in the way that Leopold recommended. Although, I absolutely felt an appreciation for the beauty of nature as I traversed the halls of the museum, particularly when I walked through the museum’s butterfly garden, I never truly saw myself as part of the biotic community. I don’t think I was ever able to ditch the notion that as people we are separate from nature. Other visitors at the museum reacted to the museum’s exhibits in different ways. Some people were awed by the displays, but there were quite a few people who didn’t seem that engaged with the museum. Truly, most of the people I saw seemed in a rush to get the information they needed to complete this assignment.

In my opinion, the Natural History Museum didn’t really allow people to connect with nature. Rather, the museum allowed people to observe nature. The one part of the museum that really allowed people to interact and immerse themselves in nature was the butterfly rain forest. The forest did this by letting people surround themselves with nature and insects. In the museum’s regular exhibits, I felt as though I was immersed in a sort of “false nature”. I don’t think that my visit to the museum instilled in me any ethical responsibility to the environment in the way Leopold describes. Of course, I’ve always felt that we all have an obligation to preserve the natural world.

Nature and the Human Spirit

The Natural History Museum allows us to step out of our ordinary lives by transporting us to a various locations and time periods via its exhibits. In doing this, the Museum also allows us to better appreciate the crazy world we live in and all it has to offer. In visiting the Natural History Museum, we are able to simultaneously witness the magnificent animals that walked the earth in ancient times, as well as the not so ancient cultures of our ancestors. The Museum and places like it allow each of us to learn more about ourselves through greater understanding of the world in which we exist.

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