Educating or Entertaining?

The readings for this week question how museums use entertainment to draw in visitors. Timothy Luke questioned why people go to museums?  Is it to be “entertained” or to actually learn something and then analyze and reflect on the displays and information at the museum.  Luke is also critical of museums that use Disneyland like forms of entertainment to draw in patrons, and in this way the focus is heavily on the entertainment factor and not on the education experience.  He used Disneyland as a comparison to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C., and called it a horror tour.  Luke was also critical of the museum because of its shock value, and he questioned whether the violent film footage of atrocities playing over and over, is overexposed.  He also had an issue with the museum’s focus on Jews, and the limited information about the millions of Roma(Gypsies), handicapped, Poles, homosexuals, Jehovah’s witnesses, Soviet prisoners of war, and political dissidents who also suffered under Nazi rule.

There is also a comparison of the Holocaust Museum and the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angles. Lukes is somewhat less critical of the Museum of Tolerance over the Holocaust Museum.  He said, “the Museum of Tolerance far outclasses the Holocaust museum in the scope and depth of its comparative analyses..” (pg.51)  In my opinion he preferred the Museum of Tolerance because of their choice of exhibits, as well as the balance and portrayal of racism in society, and extreme acts of violence by individual people as well as political figures.  One exhibit I found interesting, is in the Hall of Testimony, there is a section “…recounting forty-nine representative accounts of the eight thousand good souls recognized by Israel’s Yad Vashem as those who aided the Holocaust’s victims under Nazi rule.” (pg.53)

In Chapters 7 & 8 about the Missouri Botanical Gardens & the Sonora Desert Museum, I was thinking about them as treasures, and how great it is to live in communities that have gardens or “open habitat” zoos and museums.  However, here comes negative Lukes again….he sounds like a pessimist to me.  After completing those readings, it sounds as if Lukes is saying that because of places like the botanical gardens and desert museum people are less likely to be interested in nature in their own backyard, or preservation.  In my opinion, when you visit a local botanical garden you would learn more about native plants.  Then, you would likely plant more native plants in your yard or community because you would have learned about; which plants are drought resistant, which plants do well in what temperate zone, or which plants deter specific kinds of bugs or weeds.  To me that is a positive, however, Lukes seems to think if there is a designated “nature” area then people in cities may feel free to just go ahead and pour cement over everything.  He also referred to the botanical gardens and desert museum as “scientific simulations in the name of environmentalism.”(pg.164).

Lukes stated that much of nature is either dying or dead?  What is your opinion on this?  Do you think we have had more conservation efforts in the past 20 or 30 years or less?

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