Following our trip to the Harn, my friend Emma and I visited the Florida Museum of Natural History. We made plans to see the butterfly rainforest first, then explore the rest of the museum.
Nature on Display
The most obvious example of nature on display was the butterflies in the Butteryfly Rain Forest. The rain forest draws in many visitors from around the state, from what the museum guides told us, and contains more than 30 different species of butterflies and moths. The butterflies are easily the most memorable of all the exhibits because of its beauty. In our time there, every single person who was inside the rain forest was taking pictures of the insects and admiring the breathtaking beauty of the forest as well as the butterflies.
This exhibit is far more enjoyable than the shadowboxes containing butterflies outside the rain forest. The fact that the butterflies are alive and flying right past your ear in the rain forest made me feel interested in learning more about butterflies. The shadowboxes, contrarily, seemed a little bit creepy to me.
In the South Florida exhibit, a large portion of the displays detail the indigenous peoples of Florida's past and present. I thought this raised an ethical concern regarding the preservation and study of cultures long since wiped out by settlers or time. Very few visitors to this exhibit stopped to appreciate it for what it; most stayed for a brief moment or two before moving on. I observed this not only during my trip to the museum for the assignment but also during my weekly volunteering shift at the museum. We have a responsibility as a society built from settlers to acknowledge and appreciate the peoples who lived here long before we did and whom we displaced in order to achieve what we considered the good life in the 17th and 19th centuries.
The structure of the exhibit is pretty neat. It has all the artifacts and cultural items displayed from most recent (the Miccosukee fabrics) to the oldest tools used by the Calusa. Then, you can go into a replica hut with life-sized figures of actual Calusa leaders against the backdrop of a thunderstorm. It's kind of awe-inspiring and though it does little to actually help in the conservation of indigenous culture, it does allow people visiting the museum to learn a little bit more about these peoples.