President Obama signed the stimulus bill at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science yesterday.
Man. There is no part of that sentence I don't love. Every part of it! Subject, verb, object, prepositional phrase, adverb. They're all just inherently awesome.
Anyway, the reason (and relevancy) of this post is that the Denver Museum is very comparable to the Science Museum of Minnesota. I really like that Obama chose not only a museum, and one that is looking toward the future, but a moderately sized, regional museum. It has such grassroots feel. However, beyond symbolism, the question of the role of the museum in this exchange is pretty interesting. I'm sure they didn't approach the Obama administration about it - why would they presume that he might consider it an option? But collections based museums like DMNS, SMM, the Field Museum, and the Smithsonian generally, by nature, focus on the past. While they can then orient that focus towards the future, such as using biological specimens to talk about changing environment and extinction, the basis upon which that system of knowledge, as communicated in exhibits, is founded remains the past.
But the latest developments in museology, particularly at places like DMNS and SMM that operate on more limited budgets, instead focus on the new, the revolutionary, the future. The professed claim that Obama chose the museum because it had solar panels on the roof is a perfect example of this. Collections are expensive, boring, and pointless, right? The future isn't in the basements of museums, but on their roofs!
I'm not saying that museums of this sort don't have a role, because they do. But there's a big difference between a collections museum and a science center. And, unfortunately, many formerly collections based museums are shifting to science center, which means collections themselves, and access to them, are rapidly deteriorating, nor are they being developed. And that ain't good.