The role of natural history museums.

Regular work was put on hold on Friday as the museum hosted a pretty sizable conference, the International Symposium on National Natural History Museum in Gyeonggi Province. Korea currently does not have a such a museum, and one proposal is to situate the museum near the current lab and visitor centre at the egg site. The presenters included the director of the Natural History Museum in London, the director of the Museum National D’Histoire Naturelle in Paris, and the social science analyst at the Smithsonian in Washington, as well as several researchers from Korea.

I was interested in particular in the discussion by the British Museum’s director, on the role of natural history museums today. He brought up some interesting points about educating the public about biodiversity, climate change, and extinction, and in generally increasing interest in science. I was surprised to hear that there has been a marked decrease in student interest in the sciences in the UK, and was wondering if the same has been true for Canada and the US. I sometimes wonder if natural history museums preach to the choir, in that only people who are already interested in educating themselves will actually go to the museum. If museums want to educate the public, and perhaps have an active role in preventing science public relations disasters like Climategate, then they need to somehow be reaching the people who aren’t interested in science literacy. I don’t know how this can be achieved, but it is interesting to think about. What attracts people to natural history museums?

Also, we got to wear these totally rad translator radios so we could hear the interpreter translate the Korean speeches. Stylish!

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