The $185M Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas has a lot of positive info on the wonders of fracking, but a tiny panel explaining climate change in the original plans never made it into the joint. In fact, none of the exhibits at the Perot mention climate change -- not the display on water, not the display on weather, and certainly not the display on the miracle of shale gas.
The hall where the climate change panel was meant to hang was endowed by American oil baron Trevor Rees-Jones and bears his name. A natural gas exec on the museum's board says that climate is "too complex and fast-changing to tackle in a permanent exhibit." And the Perot is not alone: as the Dallas Morning News points out, science museums all over the USA wrestle with how to present the overwhelming scientific consensus on issues like climate and evolution.
While international teams of scientists agreed long ago that human activity is the primary cause of current warming, members of the public and some politicians have been slow to embrace the findings.
“It is about the most politically controversial topic that we can take on right now,” said Paul Martin, senior vice president for science learning at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul.
Some museums admit they’re reluctant to display the topic prominently. “We try to avoid saying things that are not necessary to be said,” said Carolyn Sumners, vice president for astronomy and the physical sciences at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
The museum doesn’t use the term “global warming” except in a historical context, such as the natural warming that took place during the time of the dinosaurs.
Visitors are just as unlikely to find overt references to evolution. “We don’t need people to come in here and reject us,” Sumners said. The museum does have an extensive display about human origins and human ancestors — a subtle approach that one might call “just the artifacts.”
Such displays are more likely to encourage museumgoers with set belief systems to linger long enough to learn something new, she said.
Louise Bradshaw, director of education at the St. Louis Zoo, who has given talks about navigating politically controversial subjects, said several museums use a similar tack. “Sometimes when you put the two words [global warming] together, it creates a flash point that gets distracting,” she said. “There are other ways to get there without picking a fight.”
Museums tiptoe around climate change [Anna Kuchment/Dallas Morning News]
(via The Mary Sue)