What the Fish? Episode 8: Exhibits – The Evolution of Scientific Communication

How is Field Museum science incorporated into our exhibitions?

Scientists at The Field Museum have the wonderful opportunity and responsibility to describe and explain recent discoveries in the fields of anthropology, botany, geology, and zoology to a worldwide audience of visitors through both our physical building in Chicago and the virtual world through our website, games, and other digital media such as the What the Fish? podcast.  For this episode, we were joined by Dr. Shannon Hackett, Associate Curator of Zoology, and Paola Bucciol, Exhibition Developer. We use the reopening of the Ronald and Christina Gidwitz Hall of Birds to discuss the interplay between the scientific and exhibition departments and the evolution of museum exhibitions.

The creation of new, specimen-rich, and engaging exhibits is a large investment.  Teams of Museum staff from exhibitions to research to information technologies to institutional advancement (to name just a few) all have to work together to create or modify permanent or temporary exhibitions.  It requires a lot work, time, and energy from a lot of creative people, and the museum has scores of small to large exhibitions on display each year.

One of the major goals of our exhibitions is to communicate our core principles and, where possible, the state of the art in the natural history disciplines to the public. Natural history museums began as a way to highlight biological, geological, and cultural diversity to people that might never have any other opportunity to view dinosaur skeletons, lions, or meteorites.  

While technology has made the world a smaller place, The Field Museum still provides the rare opportunity to see the actual animals, gems, or ancient tools. The Field Museum has more than 24 million specimens and artifacts, and these specimens and the research and collection staff that work with them all have stories to tell.  Some of our spectacular and best known specimens such as Sue the T. rex or The Tsavo Lions have well known stories, but there are thousands of additional stories that can be equally captivating or provide the “eureka” moment in a scientific discovery. Examples can be found throughout the exhibitions (e.g., Tiktaalik in the Evolving Planet exhibit) or our website (e.g., A Bird of Paradise with John Bates in The Field Revealed series).  For this reason, we emphasize Field Museum collections and research when we develop and expand our scientifically vetted physical and virtual exhibitions.

If you get a chance, stop by The Field Museum and check out some of the exhibitions that our own What the Fish? team and guests have recently worked on - the recently opened Ronald and Christina Gidwitz Hall of Birds or the Spring 2013 opening of The Creatures of Light.

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