Science Museums Should Grow Minds Not Revenue

Posted on August 10, 2008  Comments (2)

The dumbing down of science by Karen Heller

Our largest science institution simply became the Franklin, as if it were some glistening condo development or waterfront casino. Which is fitting, given all the sizzle, pyrotechnics and cost. Adult admission has soared to $23.25 if you want to see the current exhibits “Real Pirates” and “Chronicles of Narnia,” the latter – correct me if I’m wrong – based on a fictional world and $1 billion global movie franchise.

“Adults” happens to mean anyone over 11, a rather severe view for an organization geared toward students. Imax? That’s $5.50 extra. Audio tour? Yo ho ho, and an additional $6. For that kind of money, I left my two adults, 12 and 14, at home. New York’s American Museum of Natural History, a superior museum, offers $17 student tickets for ages 13 through 17

The rub was that neither group appeared well-served by science. “Sports Challenge” is more Dave and Buster’s than lessons in physiology, a homage to hyperactivity where kids run around without ever stopping to learn.

“Sir Isaac’s Loft” contains one of those George Rhoads kinetic sculptures found in airports. “Sometimes you just can’t avoid science,” the caption reads, almost as an apology. “My intention is not to exemplify scientific principles,” Rhoads states on the plaque. Oh, great.

Frequently, the Franklin seems as scared of learning as it does of science. Lopping off the “Institute” is an indication. What I watched was kids dashing madly, going from one pit stop to the other, without absorbing much. There was so much insistent fun (!) and no, this-isn’t-really-science stuff that the place is transformed into just another consumer palace.

I think she makes very good points. I fear many museums are more focused on growing revenues than growing minds. That is a very sad state of affairs. I have nothing wrong with focusing on making money – just with museums (and even moreso science museums) doing so. Museums should focus on building minds (which does require balancing finances to stay in business, I understand). If you want to be a Dave and Busters like organization, go ahead, just leave our science museums to those that want to build minds.

Related: $40 Million for Engineering Education in BostonBoston Travel Photos 8 Year Old Math Prodigy Corrects Science ExhibitMetropolitan Museum of Art photosMalachite

2 Responses to “Science Museums Should Grow Minds Not Revenue”

  1. Vishnu
    September 9th, 2008 @ 6:45 am

    Yeah dear.., juz imagine the volume of money flowing in and out of these mueseums.. I think its ok to make money.. but they must be able to deliver according to the expectations… In india mueseums are the places which are accessble by common people and can spend time without much burden on pocket

  2. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Ironmaking at the National Museum of Science and Technology in Stockholm
    May 8th, 2010 @ 8:20 am

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