Friday, April 29, 2011

Lava and smoke

A little corner exhibit at the Field Museum in Chicago tried to showcase the lava eruptions in Hawaii using darkness, glow lights and LED lights. Did they succeed? What do you think?

When I was walking these exhibits I was thinking that most of these dioramas are missing the impressions of so many of our senses - there need to be scents, sounds, winds, and the feeling of touch to really get the real experience.

Just looking doesn't really do it. But being in Hawaii and smelling the sulfur, stepping on crunchy lava cinder sand and feeling the warm wind is a different thing. Couldn't exhibits try to invoke some of this too? I am not sure how to do the noise and smell or the warm wind, but I bet in the future there will be movie theaters with smell makers, fans, and boxes you can put your hands into to feel any texture or surface (ick, imagine that, anything slimy or gory...).  Virtual but real.  Still, that wouldn't be the real thing.  But I have always thought that to teach history, an experience such as walking down the street in 1850s New York would tell you a lot more about history than any book. 

I love the animal dioramas with stuffed beasts and painted backgrounds with a few silk flowers at museums, but it only gives you maybe 10% of the experience of being outside in nature. It is great that parents take their kids to museums, but they should even more just take them outside to many different kinds of places (and not be afraid of rain, ticks, dirt, germs, and toxic plants). How can you describe something to a kid that has never had that experience? You can't describe sulfur smell, it is unknown to you until you have actually smelled the rotten egg smell from a stinking boiling pot in Yellowstone. So, let's get out more. And put a sulfur smelling station next to the lava exhibit.

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