Posts Tagged 'exhibitions'

Butterflies & moths

Another little display from the Carnegie I’ve had sat in my files for too long. OK so there’s nothing here that’s linked to archosaurs, or even evolution in general. But what it does do is address just the kind of question that often bugs people. I think a very big proportion of the public would recognise that moths and butterflies are close relatives and that they are different, but aside from the diurnal / nocturnal split and the fact that butterflies tend to be more colourful, they would probably struggle to say how you could tell them apart, or for that matter what linked them together.

My experiences with Ask A Biologist suggest this kind of thing is really common. People have bits of knowledge and part of the full picture, but don’t realise they have only part of the story and even if they did, don’t know how to go about filling in the gaps or putting their knowledge into context. In the case of AAB, someone has realised that don’t know the full picture, or has had their interest piqued by some incident.

In the case it’s actively prompting people – it’s easy to imagine someone looking at this and thinking “Oh yeah, what *is* the difference?”. The headline is a nice attention grabber and it’ll get people to read the short captions below and, hopefully, get them thinking a little more about taxonomy and diversity (if not in those terms) and the world around them. In short, neat idea, well done. I can easily see this being a nice series too – a line of panels of ‘What’s the difference between a shark and a fish?’ or frogs vs toads, newts vs salamanders, goats vs sheep and the like.

What is also nice about this is how much that is conveyed in such a small amount of space and few words. Maximum communication but without filling the place or making people struggle through dense text to get the message across, and all the time filling in other gaps in their knowledge with little extras like the addition of skippers or the relative numbers of species. Great stuff.

Packing them in

My thanks to Matt van Rooijen of the Optimistic Painting blog for this photo from the Launceston’s Queen Victoria Museum in Australia. As you can see they have one hell of a pile of dinosaurs here and have maximised the amount of floorspace to stuff them in. From the perspective of the average museum visitor this is pretty nice – when I was young I’d have been delighted to see this many dinosaurs in one small space and I do appreciate the spectacle of things like this. However, the researcher in me is rather frustrated. You can’t see the details which have become bread and butter to me but which the average visitor would not care about, and nor is it easy to take photos of skeletons in isolation. Obviously I’m hardly suggesting that museums should lay out their exhibits to benefit the odd researcher for every ten thousand visitors they get, but it can be annoying. I (obviously) prefer the more open plan ones, but on balance I’d rather see 10 dinosaurs crammed in than 3 well spaced out.

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