The role of the Dunn-Seiler Museum, Mississippi State University, in promoting public geoliteracy
Renee M. Clary, Amy Moe-Hoffman, 2018. "The role of the Dunn-Seiler Museum, Mississippi State University, in promoting public geoliteracy", Museums at the Forefront of the History and Philosophy of Geology: History Made, History in the Making, Gary D. Rosenberg, Renee M. Clary, III
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Mississippi State University’s Dunn-Seiler Museum is a small, traditional museum housed in the Department of Geosciences. Founded in 1946, the museum preserves the geologic specimens collected by faculty, students, and donors and includes holotypes and extensive Cretaceous collections. Throughout its seven decades, the Dunn-Seiler Museum has transitioned in its role as a repository and displayer of geological objects to a facility that uses best practices in informal education to promote visitor understanding of important geological concepts, including biodiversity, evolution, geologic time, and sustainability. The first small public gallery had limited access and displayed specimens with identification cards but little interpretive signage. Beginning in the early 2000s, best research practices were utilized to build interpretive displays to enhance the visitor’s educational experience. In the past decade, the Dunn-Seiler participated within national organizations to expand educational opportunities with resources at the national level. Throughout this transition to increased public education, the museum still curated and maintained research collections. Today the Dunn-Seiler Museum bridges the community of researchers and the general public. While the museum’s role at the forefront of geology was initially in its storage and display of research specimens, its role has expanded to communicate geology for improved public geoliteracy.
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Museums at the Forefront of the History and Philosophy of Geology: History Made, History in the Making
Natural history museums have evolved over the past 500 years to become vanguards of science literacy and thus institutions of democracy. Curiosity about nature and distant cultures has proven to be a powerful lure, and museums have progressively improved public engagement through increasingly immersive exhibits, participation in field expeditions, and research using museum holdings, all facilitated by new technology. Natural history museums have dispersed across the globe and demonstrated that public fascination with ancient life, vanished environments, exotic animals in remote habitats, cultural diversity, and our place in the cosmos is universal. This volume samples the story of museum development and illustrates that the historical successes of natural history museums have positioned them to be preeminent facilitators of science literacy well into the future.