Beyond the field trip crowd

Most people who go to natural history museums come by way of a yellow school bus. linkurl:The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia;http://www.ansp.org/ is trying to broaden their audience and bring more adults into the museum. "For some reason natural history museums are thought of as a place for kids and they are," said Barbara Ciega, vice president of public operations for the Academy. She continued, "

By | April 2, 2010

Most people who go to natural history museums come by way of a yellow school bus. linkurl:The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia;http://www.ansp.org/ is trying to broaden their audience and bring more adults into the museum. "For some reason natural history museums are thought of as a place for kids and they are," said Barbara Ciega, vice president of public operations for the Academy. She continued, "You can enjoy natural history as much as an adult as you could when you were a child." Two exhibits designed to attract an adult audience are currently on display at the Academy and they aim to "use the aesthetic quality" of natural science "to get people interested in the science," according to Ciega. linkurl:"First Impressions: Thomas Horsfield's printed plants of Java,";http://www.ansp.org/museum/art-in-science.php is part of The Art of Science, a new permanent gallery at the Academy, and linkurl:"Looking at Animals,";http://www.ansp.org/looking-at-animals/index.php features photographs by artist, linkurl:Henry Horenstein.;http://www.horenstein.com/ The Academy killed two birds with one stone with "First Impressions." Curators at the museum wanted to include more art in their exhibits and also had a stockpile of interesting artifacts that they wanted to get out of storerooms and on public display Thomas Horsfield, a native Pennsylvanian, medical doctor, and amateur botanist, set sail as a surgeon on a merchant ship bound for the island of Java shortly after he graduated from University of Pennsylvania in 1798. While there, he pressed and made drawings of plants, many of which were unknown to science at the time. Some of the new species were described by Horsfield, and others were identified at a later date by his colleagues at the British Museum. But many of the exotic plants were first identified by the Academy's curator emeritus of botany, Alfred Schuyler. While Horshfield was in London he published a book of the plants of Java, entitled Plantae Javanicae Rariores with the help of botanists Robert Brown and John Joseph Bennett. The book was published in the mid 19th century, and the Academy purchased an un-published collection of Horshfield's bound drawings in 1889. For decades, this treasure trove of botanical artwork, which includes more than 759 inked illustrations of the plants of Java, sat virtually forgotten in the Academy's archives. The plant drawings possess a minimalistic grace. While all of the important identifying characteristics are depicted in black and white giclee prints, there is something "lovely" to the arrangement of the images on the page, said Ciega. Academy curators selected the prints for the exhibit based on the ability to identify the plant, the quality of the image, and the uniqueness of the particular plant species depicted. For example, one of the images on display is that of a grass named for Horshfield. The other exhibit, "Looking at Animals," is a collection of contemporary photographs by Rhode Island School of Design photography professor Henry Horenstein that debuted at the Harvard Museum of Natural History in 2007. It features a "sprinkling of specimens," according to Ciega, and Horenstein's imagery makes it apparent that the photographer is "very aware that he sees animals in different ways." Hava Gurevich, the director of linkurl:Art2Art Circulating Exhibits;http://www.art2art.org/ which is responsible for the collection, says the photographs are "inviting" and show "details of something that you are familiar with and brings a new perspective." "Looking at Animals, "has been organized to offer new ways of seeing and thinking about the natural world," according to Liz Werby, the executive director of the Harvard Museum of Natural History. Werby said that the exhibit succeeded in attracting more adults to her museum. "I am pleased that these exhibitions have brought new audiences into the Harvard Museum of Natural History, including college students and adults who might not otherwise have visited a natural history museum." For the exhibit's Philly showing, Horenstein's photographs are displayed with items from the Academy's collection. For example, the image of Sandhill crane's neck is paired with a taxidermied crane wing in full spread, and a giant octopus photo hangs next to a jarred specimen fondly referred to as Walter. Both of these exhibits have so far been successfully attracting a more adult audience to the museum, according to Ciega. "First Impressions" runs until May 2nd, 2010 at the Academy, and "Looking at Animals" is on display until May 16th.
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Science museums exhibit renewed vigor;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/14546/
[29th March 2004]*linkurl:Geckos invade Philly museum;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55744/
[29th May 2009]*linkurl:Studying the unmentionable;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/53069/
[13th April 2007]

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