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ABSTRACT

The traditional model of the natural history museum developed during an age of exploration. In the twenty-first century, natural history museums can demonstrate the excitement of science and enhance geoscience education by using the space-age exploration of our solar system and incorporating the geoscience subdiscipline of planetary geology. Natural history museums reach a self-selected, self-directed, and multigenerational audience. This audience can choose to pursue a range of exhibits and programs in various sciences offered by a museum. The public may be interested in geoscience but often has limited knowledge or understanding of the science. Planetary geology offers an effective way to add content and technology to the traditional natural history museum and a new way to interest museum visitors in basic geoscience. Over the past decade, the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science (NMMNHS) has successfully used planetary geology to enhance geoscience education by incorporating the following techniques: (1) geoscience related to a specific planet or planetary mission; (2) geoscience related to a planetary problem; and (3) planetary geology related to art. Use of these techniques has allowed the NMMNHS to reach multiple and underrepresented audiences, to encourage interest in basic geoscience, and to better serve the science education needs of the state of New Mexico. The addition of planetary geology to the traditional range of science topics enables natural history museums to continue their evolution as relevant sources of geoscience and provides them with an additional and effective way to teach geoscience in the twenty-first century.

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