Visiting the Center for PostNatural History

Reveiews museum opener
Back in 2011, I posted about the planned Center for PostNatural History, the Pittsburgh, PA wunderkammer of organisms altered by humans, from GloFish® to GMO corn to a genetically engineered goat. It's the brainchild of Carnegie Mellon University art professor Richard Pell. This week's Science News includes a feature about the museum, now open to the public.

But Pell does not intend the museum to be merely a cabinet of curiosities or a freak show. Visitors will not find rants that drum up fears of "Frankenfoods." Neither is this a celebration of science with grand promises about the future. Instead, Pell hopes it is a place where "activists and scientists can run into each other, feel comfortable and maybe even blow each others' minds."

Language used throughout the center is artfully neutral, and each specimen is accompanied by only a few basic facts and a brief story highlighting a social issue. One display shows dried leaves from a transgenic American chestnut, engineered with a wheat gene to resist the fungal blight that nearly eradicated wild populations of the tree. An audio guide recounts how researchers decided to use the wheat gene instead of one from frogs, for fear of controversy.

"Humans' living creations put on display"