Exhibit review | Abbot Conservation Hall: “Restoring Earth” at the Field Museum
Fri Nov 4 2011
Fifteen years ago, technology in museum exhibitions meant video monitors and big, red PUSH ME buttons.
Nowadays, technology is less hands-on than it is hands-free, more Steve Jobs than Indiana Jones. The Field Museum has taken advantage of that wonder in its newest permanent exhibit, which opens today. Abbot Hall of Conservation Restoring Earth, a look into conservation science via grand, interactive visuals and digital workstations, aims to promote the sustainability efforts of people from around the globe, as well as what’s happening right here in Chicago.
The exhibit’s creators did incorporate traditional displays such as still photography and video. But it’s the more advanced digital technologies that will generate conservation interest among both kids and adults.
“We provide an experience that goes beyond just information,” Alvaro Amat, the Field’s design director, said in a statement announcing Restoring Earth. “We want to effect attitude change—to make people care about nature instead of just learning about it. We’re trying to inspire.”
In honor of the opening, the museum welcomed yesterday its first official visitors for a special preview: fourth-graders from the Tarkington School of Excellence, Chicago’s first LEED-certified school. All seemed eager to test out the treasure trove of digital tools and information devices, including a number of touchscreen displays and high-resolution microscopes. One of the most popular kiosks involved a giant screen and motion-capture device.
“I saw it from outside before we came in,” said Tarkington student Jose Cuevas. “It was awesome, like a giant Wii or Xbox or something.” Teacher Laura Bryll shared in Cuevas’s excitement. “I think it’s fantastic,” she said. “I love that they’ve incorporated digital technology into the exhibit. The kids can really grasp and digest everything they’re learning.” Asked if she would recommend the exhibit to others, Bryll didn’t hesitate to give her answer. “Hands down, yes.”