Sunday, April 11, 2010

Coming posts: Harvard’s Scientific Instrument Collection, and the Creation Museum

I’m back in Cleveland after visiting two very contrasting museums, with very different takes on the meaning of science in our life. While in Boston, for a book talk, I paid a call on Sara Schechner, curator of Harvard’s collection of scientific instruments, and designer of the award winning interpretive gallery Time, Life, and Matter: Science in Cambridge, in the Putnam Gallery of Harvard's Science Center. I am hard pressed to think of a better museum presentation of the beauty and meaning of scientific instruments – it is stunningly handsome, thoughtfully conceived, and artfully installed. Well worth a visit when in Boston. More on that later.

Sara Schechner

In contrast, my visit to the Creation Museum in Kentucky, outside Cincinnati, defied credulity. Having said that, it is a masterful piece of cultural interpretation (costing $27 million to build!). I hesitate to use the term “museum” as the place was devoid of “real” artifacts. But the dioramas, animatronic figures, and video presentation were slick and state of the art in quality, if not substance. Again, more on this later in the week. For now I will leave you with an image that sums up the peculiarity and absurdities of the place in a nutshell: dinos boarding Noah’s Ark.

Stay tuned for many more pics of both places, and my impressions and curatorial assessment of each in turn.

Jim Edmonson