Conjay Dahn's Good Life Nature Activity at FLMNH PHOTO: Florida museum of natural history in gainesville, fl

Introduction

This week, I was able to visit the Florida Museum of Natural History and discover more about the good life in Florida, stemming from the past.

Nature on Display

Source: Wall text, Florida Fossils: Evolution of Life & Land, Ancient Seas, Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, Florida

Some of the first exhibits that really intrigued me were the dioramas meant to replicate organisms and life of ancient seas of Earth's past.

Source: Wall text, Florida Fossils: Evolution of Life & Land, Ancient Seas, Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, Florida
Source: Wall text, Florida Fossils: Evolution of Life & Land, Ancient Seas, Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, Florida

I particularly enjoyed this exhibit because it displayed a variety of extinct organisms of the oceans in interesting lighting. When you first enter the exhibit, it is completely dark except for the colorful lights shown by each sea time period. I have a love/hate relationship with the ocean, but the main thing that has always frightened as well as fascinated me about the ocean is that it is the least explored body on earth. It is an abyss of sorts. There is so much to learn about evolution and earth's history, simply by studying the ocean. These discoveries hold so much power and curiosity is the only way of unlocking it.

Florida Fossils Exhibit @ FLMNH

Source: Wall text, Florida Fossils: Evolution of Life & Land, Ancient Seas, Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, Florida

I learned that life originally began in the ocean during the Cambrian Period of evolution. Although I could have learned the written facts from a book, I would not be able to conceptualize the size, shape, and colors of the organisms through a picture. The huge advantage of this exhibit was its perspective. I was able to physically see how these organisms would fit into their environment and surroundings and this could help me better understand how they may have inhabited earth and come to evolve into the diverse creatures we see today. Going through these tanks, I got lost in the lights and was able to really put myself into these pre-historic environments.

Nature and Ethics

I was able to visit the butterfly garden at the museum earlier during the week in a different visit. I often come to the garden to take a few minutes to myself and listen to the water. Even though I am a bit frightened of butterflies, I always find it relaxing to sit in the middle of the garden and just meditate on my frame of mind and the issues I dealt with during the week or past few weeks. I focus on the running water of the waterfall and contemplate life.

Butterfly Rainforest

Source: Brochure, Butterfly Rainforest, Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, Florida

Source: Brochure, Butterfly Rainforest, Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, Florida

Source: Brochure, Butterfly Rainforest, Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, Florida

Ethical research is a huge part in the development of natural exhibits. Researchers and scientists work to gain the most knowledge about an environment while attempting to keep the integrity of nature intact. I was able to observe this by watching the scientists preserve butterflies in the lab of the museum.

Source: Brochure, Butterfly Rainforest, Preparation Lab, Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, Florida

Leopold's views of nature and being a part of the natural environment are shown in the opportunity the museum gives to wander in the butterfly garden. I was able to immerse myself in the ambiance of a tropical forest and, with each visit, I felt myself growing connected to the plants and butterflies that surrounded me. During my visits, I looked around and saw small children and adults alike stare at the colorful creatures in awe and become completely captured by the scenery of the garden. Through this exhibit, the museum allows me to connect with nature in a more intimate fashion. By getting lost in this environment mentally, I am able to consolidate my thoughts and put my life into perspective as a simple cog in the natural processes of life on Earth. This unity is what inspires ethical responsibility in protecting the nature that surrounds you, as it is the same as protecting a part of yourself.

Source: Brochure, Butterfly Rainforest, Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, Florida
Butterfly Rainforest

Source: Brochure, Butterfly Rainforest, Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, Florida

Nature and the Human Spirit

Calusa Exhibit

Source: Wall text, South Florida People and Environments, Calusa Exhibit, Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, Florida

I explored the native Calusa exhibit inside the museum and got a better understanding of how this community based their spiritual lives on their connection with the natural world.

Source: Wall text, South Florida People and Environments, Calusa Leader's House, Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, Florida

The museum recreated elements of the Calusa community and showed how they directly interacted with natural elements. I was especially impressed by the Calusa views of the afterlife. There is a display of a Florida midden, or layers of earth formed by human remains. According to Father Juan Rogel's accounts of the Calusa views of the afterlife, the Calusa believe that when we die, our souls enter other living creatures. When we kill those creatures, we are killing out human souls and our souls will be deposited into a "lesser" organism continuosly until we result in nothing. These indigienous people believed that it was essential to respect nature because it is the place within which our souls reside. This was also personified by the portion of a Florida midden, or layers of earth consisting of human remains.

Source: Wall text, South Florida People and Environments, Calusa Afterlife, Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, Florida
Source: Wall text, South Florida People and Environments, What Stories Can This Midden Tell Us? , Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, Florida

I was able to abandon my beliefs and embrace the culture of an entirely different culture. The Calusa connection to nature helped me realize the complexity of the natural world. We use the Earth and its resources however we like, but we have to remember that the world we live in has the ultimate authority over our lives and will outlive whatever privileges we have obtained from nature. I was able to reflect who I am as a person in relation to nature because my life was put into perspective by these cultural views.

Calusa Exhibit

Source: Wall text, South Florida People and Environments, Calusa Exhibit, Florida Museum of Natural History, Gainesville, Florida

My Experience at the Florida Museum of Natural History

At the museum, I often see small children running around with a familiar look of wonder and curiosity of their environment. Seeing them again during this visit emphasized the idea the purest form of human nature is the pursuit of happiness. The Florida Museum of Natural History educates the community on the stories of their past as told by nature and I enjoyed placing myself, even if for a few moments, within the natural processes of how I came to be.

FLMNH in Gainesville, FL

Conjay Dahn

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