Sunday, March 29, 2009

The implications of the Museum of Jurassic Technology

My working thesis for the paper I am writing is that the concept of what is acceptable, and what isn't, in natural history museums changes over time and is deeply based on the societal norms of a museum's setting. I am focusing my paper around the Museum of Jurassic Technology, as it calls into question many of the basic concepts surrounding natural history museums, as well as bearing commentary on the history of natural history museums and how it relates to the present.

Some of the consequences of my argument reflect the postmodern quality of the MJT, as follows:
All ways of categorizing and creating normative valuations are cultural constructs, based on societal norms and customs. The way science is interpreted and displayed for the public is shaped by these norms and customs, and therefore the concepts of truth and reality, in terms of natural history museums, are somewhat relative. The basis of rationality in museums is determined by the dominant culture of the time and place in which they occur, and this changes over time. The ordering of specimens and displays within each museum takes place according to specific standards and foundational guidelines held by each museum, and thus there is a hidden value system which can be decoded from museum collections and displays. Thus, rather than presenting objective, detached expositions of natural history, these museums (despite their scientific and academic subject matter) are to a large degree subjective reflections of their cultural values.

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