Touring the Museum at UMich

by Katherine and Elisabeth Sorrows

Looking around the museum

Each of us found a different section that we really enjoyed. We looked at the Smilodon and the Mastodon. They have Mastodon footprints to look at and the right hind leg of the Mastodon was printed on a 3-D printer so you could see the pixels on the leg. If you didn’t know what to look at you would miss the pixels. They have a new exhibit of a snake about to eat dinosaur eggs. They were recently discovered where an avalanche had occurred.

We also looked at exhibit design and Katherine really liked the design of the exhibit about petrified wood. She really liked the design of the exhibit there was different tiers of information, the information was also laid out in a way that it was not overwhelming. The petrified wood was a really pretty object, it was a very big piece and had been polished so you could still count all the rings. There was an amazing new exhibit of a very recent discovery of a dinosaur nest with a snake about to eat the babies. Heather had been reading about the study so she was excited to share what she had been reading as well as to look at what was in the exhibit. We also discussed the presentation of the content. As well as how they were able to make an exhibit so quickly after it had been discovered.

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Discussion with Exhibit Staff

We met with Kira B. and John K. in one of the exhibits, they work on education and exhibit design respectively. One thing I learned from them was how much the exhibit designer can influence a museum even long after they are gone. The exhibit we sat in had dioramas of different geologic time periods. The designer at the time, sometime in the 60s, was not interested in the Triassic period so there is no diorama about it, and the exhibit has mostly invertebrates. For this exhibit visitors were not considered as much, there was no visitor survey for the exhibit. We also discussed different types of exhibits and the pros and cons of having more technology or less. One exhibit idea that worked well was using post-it notes as an interactive method of getting visitors to share their opinions. We also talked about what a museum was for. Some of the things we agreed with Kira and John about were that screens can be used at home, museums should be more about interactive, allowing visitors to touch and feel things that cannot be felt at home.

I enjoyed learning and thinking about the running of museums, and the variety of projects they were involved in. One thing we discussed was having to prioritize exhibit design, deciding which exhibits are most important to update or do. There is only so much that can be done with the resources and people that are there. We also talked about how to write exhibit labels and looked at the ages of exhibits.

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