NATURE ON DISPLAY
Of the many exhibits within the Florida Museum of Natural History, I was drawn towards the cave the most. Being Geology major, I have a strong interest in anything related to rocks. Caves are breathtaking formations and can ignite a sense of mystery and wonder, once entered. The exhibit in the museum, on the outside, captured my attention, with fake bright green vegetation surrounding the outside. As I approached closer to the entrance of the cave, I immediately noticed that it was very dark and cold on the inside (in contrast to the well-lit and brightly colored outside). I went into the cave and upon first glance I was amazed at the detail put into the walls. If you were to touch the rock formations or the fossils, you could feel the textures of every dent and bone. The model rock formations forming from the ceiling and the fossils embedded within the walls of the cave glistened in the golden spotlights.
The cave was one of the most interactive exhibits in the museum, in that you could read information about it and the fact that you could actually walk through a physical model of a cave. With there being a physical aspect of the exhibit, I felt as if I were in an actual cave. Along with reading information on caves, being in the model allowed me to gain an enhanced experience of what it may be like to be in the natural world. For example, I learned that when acidic groundwater seeps through limestone (through dissolution), that the model of the cave is a result of such a process. The museum was an enjoyable experience for the simple fact that I could visualize what I read, in almost realistic models. Trying to read information on nature or parts of the past in a textbook can give you a small idea of what it was like, but participating in realistic examples allows you to have a bigger idea.
NATURE AND ETHICS
As mentioned before, the ability for me to visualize and feel as if I was part of the exhibit allowed me to have an enhanced experience, which made learning about nature/history more enjoyable. In addition to feeling as if I were part of the exhibit, I also felt a certain respect for each part of nature presented to me at the museum, (as Leopold recommends). As I walked throughout the museum I felt what was on display is essential to the environment that I am from. Whether the exhibit was current or historical, it made me feel as if I was a part of nature. There were two major exhibits that helped me to conceptualize and appreciate nature in a new way. One of the more striking exhibits that changed the way I thought and felt about nature, was the series of photographs at the end of the Fossils Exhibit. There were several pictures of species, both animals and plants, which were all native to Florida but are now extinct. According to the information panel, over 30,000 species are lost due to human activity each year. This specific fact amazed me and it ties back to Leopold’s idea that we view ourselves as “conquerors of land.” Everyday life distracts us from the idea that we ARE partakers of the “biotic community.” I feel a new respect and empathy for the nature, knowing that humanity has played such a major role in a tremendously negative result.
The other exhibit that helped me to appreciate nature was the Butterfly Garden. With different species of butterflies fluttering around and observing the intricate designs and multicolored wings of each, it made me think of how nature is capable of making such complex qualities. Humanity can sometimes forget to stop and observe the world around, but the museum reminds the public of what is out there and what we are possibly missing from our everyday lives. Other people in the museum were taking time to educate themselves and feel a sense of inclusion. With that sense of inclusion in nature, one may feel a moral obligation/ responsibility to recognize and respect it.