This weekend’s family trip went to Geologisk Museum, where we could make our own fossil plaster casts (succes!) and marvel at flourescent rocks, giant shark teeth and other wonders of the world. Also, a remake of Ole Worms rennaisance cabinet of curiousities was an absolute joy.
As geology is not really our area of expertise (ahem), we decided to follow the guided tour. Which was really great! Having the collection opened up and learning some interesting facts from an enthusiatic expert gave me a deeper appreciation and understanding even though we were still only scraping the surface (albeit deep underground).
Mindboggling stuff, geology: carbon concentrations in 3.8 billion year old rocks proving that life on earth began earlier than previously assumed (carbon 12 & 13, that is, as carbon 14 only lasts 30.000 years and hence is only usefull in archeological dating #bonusinfo); special structures in a slice of meteorite tells the story of a cooling proces that took 1000 years per centigrade. Even if this is the sort of knowledge that may only become directly useful to me in a game of Trivial Pursuit, and even if I still don’t get how they work this stuff out, the information made an impression and sticks in my mind.
The point here, of course, is that mediation and information make a difference (so perhaps my comments in a previous post about the virtues of undisturbed contemplation were misguided?). And that the good old guided tour is a great format for not just transferral of knowledge, but also for sharing an enthusiasm for a given topic that can be rather contagious, as well as allowing for questions and dialogue.
Another strength of the guided tour is that is a social event, for the group as a whole and for your personal group within it, as you expereince the same thing simultaneously. Whereas my desire to try out my new Pinterest app, pinning a snapshot of a particularly captivating fossil, meant that sharing online had me lagging behind my family and hence not sharing in their/our joint experience at that point. Which is why I only did it the once, and felt rather torn. On the other hand, feeling inspired to share this paticular image also ‘pinned’ that fossile in my mind in a more conscious manner than simply taking a photo would.
As this is the kind of pros-and-cons conondrums and getting to grips with the nature of ‘the museum experience’ I’m dealing with in my project, I find these personal experiences to be very useful, even if they may only confirm my theories and not add new knowledge as such.