Art and Museum Review / Compte Rendu D'exposition

By Lelièvre, M. A. | Anthropologica, July 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Art and Museum Review / Compte Rendu D'exposition


Lelièvre, M. A., Anthropologica


Art and Museum Review / Compte rendu d'exposition

Evolving Planet: Constructing the Culture of Science at Chicago's Field Museum

The recent resurgence of the debate in the United States and northern Québec between evolutionists and creationists reminds us that there is still disagreement on who or what is the prime mover of life on Earth. I propose to explore a specific site of production for evolutionary discourse-that of the public museum. Long understood as instruments in the creation of nations and citizens, museums are sites for the creation of culture. With Evolving Planet, the Field Museum reinforces a particular culture of modern, Western science as the only epistemology for understanding life on Earth.

In early March 2006, the Field Museum in Chicago opened its newly renovated permanent exhibit on evolution entitled Evolving Planet Planning for the $17 million exhibit began in 2001 when in-house evaluations revealed that Life Over Time, the exhibit that Evolving Planet replaces, was failing to communicate the message that all life on Earth is connected through the cumulative processes of evolution (Tubutis 2005: 18). In preparing for the renovations, the Museum had several objectives, which included reporting recent advances in evolutionary theory, highlighting its fossil collections and providing a context for Sue, the recently acquired Tyrannosaurus rex that resides in the Stanley Field Hall on the ground floor. The Field Museum tells the story of evolution through the tried-and-true walk-through-time design, unlike some institutions that present evolution more thematically-for example, the recent Darwin exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History (see also Rufolo, 1999). But not to be restricted by the geologic time-scale, Evolving Planet divides the journey into six colour-coded phases that cross-cut and combine some geologic divisions.

If, as L.E Hartley claims, the past is a foreign country, then the geologic past presented in Evolving Planet is a different world. Indeed, we might more readily identify the volcanic terrain and 50°C temperatures of the Precambrian eon with Mars than with the ancient history of Earth. When presenting the Earth's deep history, one challenge for museum professionals is to make its foreignness familiar to visitors. With Evolving Planet, the Field Museum takes this challenge one step further in attempting to allow visitors to experience the unexperienceable. Through a combination of fossil specimens, digital animations, artistic illustrations, three-dimensional models and video presentations, Evolving Planet creates spaces in which visitors are meant, not only to observe, but also to experience 4.5 billion years of life on planet Earth.

Walking into the first phase, which is devoted to the Precambrian, it becomes clear that Evolving Planet will be a multisensory experience. The Precambrian is cast in the orangered of Paleozoic lava. Visitors see an illustration of, what appears to be, a typical landscape for this eon-a sea of indeterminate liquid punctuated by steaming volcanoes. Sinusoidal light effects cast shimmering ripples on the exhibit walls. We hear the ambient sounds of harsh winds, presumably whipping down through the scattered landforms. The accompanying text panel warns visitors that the atmospheric cocktail of carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water vapour would have made the Precambrian air unbreathable. Yet the artistic interpretation of the landscape implies a human perspective. We, the visitors, could be standing atop a distant volcano taking in the literally breathtaking view of the Precambrian ooze.

The "you-are-here" provocations continue with other audio-visual features of Evolving Planet Each phase has its own particular colour scheme and soundscape, allowing visitors to sense sights, sounds and even some of the textures that have been extinct for millennia. Visitors entering the Cambrian period, for example, face three large screens that display the digital animation of a sea teeming with awe-inspiring life (photo 1). …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Art and Museum Review / Compte Rendu D'exposition
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.