Visiting at the AMNH was a fascinating experience mainly because it was the first time I saw the behind the scenes of a museum.
The AMNH is endless therefore I chose to focus on the Crocs exhibition in this trip report. The exhibition space is divided in such way that it leads you in a semi-linear storyline — the visitor can choose whether to see first the left side or the right side of the exhibit but cannot really see what waits ahead. It will be discovered only by moving forward.
Firstly, the spectator sees videos of Croc experts. The association I had from watching them was that of me paying a visit to my university professors. It seemed as if the curator intended to create the feeling of one who goes to these exports’ offices in order to ask them questions about alligators and crocodiles. The interviews felt very realistic. However, I felt that some of them were lacking visuals that will help to tie all this information into a story line. One great video had a virtual notebook that allowed you to “build” your own crocodile while it was illustrated.
A lot of the interaction in the show used touch screens and I felt that I am missing pressing buttons or something more tangible. One of the videos was playing over and over in wich the curator acted as if he just noticed an invisible new guest. I thought it would have been better to use a proximity sensor, for example, in order to create a more engaging experience.
In addition, the acoustics in the space was very poor. The sound of the videos disrupted each other what mad it very hard to concentrate on the other videos and even to read the captions.
I was following a father and his son who was about 6 years old. His mother was also around but the main interaction was between the child and his father. I first noticed them when the father asked his son if he knows what is the difference between crocodiles and alligators, I was curious to know. His voice had a reading intonation so I know where to go if I wanted to know the answer to that question.
The family members were mostly quite and from time to time the father would read to his son from the posters.
I arrived at a display that was very similar to the reconstructed windows in the permanent exhibition – Akeley Hall of African Mammals. At first, I did not understand why there is water inside of the exhibition box. I thought it was clever to do so in order to make it look more realistic. but then a woman who works at the museum approached me, little did I know what she was about to reveal. Apparently, the exhibition included LIVE crocodiles and alligators. It was so still (did not show any breath signs) that it was almost hard to believe. I immediately asked myself why? what is the advantage of housing live animals in an exhibit if they seem to be still most of the time? Couldn’t they be easily replaced with a taxidermy or with a sculpture?
The baby alligators that one of them can be seen in the following image were more mobile but still I did not see an advantage for keeping them ther except of the excitement and rush that I personally felt by being so close to such a massive and amazing animal.
After talking with the Crocs woman I felt like there is no real substitute for a human interaction. In the videos a list of questions, that I could choose from, topics that might interest me to know the answer for but did not evoke a lot of curiosity. However, when I had the opportunity to truly communicate with a real person, the questions just kept accumulated in my mind. It enabled an open discussion.
After talking to me I heard the instructor talking with the family members that I saw earlier and she shared with them her knowledge about the Crocodiles and alligators. I saw that other visitors also reached to her and came back a few times in order to ask her to elaborate and to have a conversation regarding the exhibition.
The glass cages were decorating with the following phrase which unavoidably created the opposite effect.
The women whom I talked with before, scold children who taped in order to get some attention from the beautiful tenants of the exhibition.
I was amazed by the back rooms of the museum it was so different from what the visitors are exposed to. The part in which the researchers were working reminded me a lot of the labs at the biology department that I used to spend most of my time during my studies.
Where the people who are accounted on the exhibitions worked looked a lot like a storage space. However, the shop area was very exciting, we got really exposed to their working process from the ideation, building a model until seeing the process of sculpting and creating the final pieces that will star at the exhibition.
Towards the end of our tour, I run into these abandoned figures which I found very intriguing. I saw it as an unintentional statement of who is the museum expects to be its audience.
Categories: Cabinets of Wonder