June 16, 2014 | 11
Science museums are among the most trusted sources of information about the world around us. At their best, they offer fun, interactive, rich learning environments that surprise, inspire and enlighten their visitors. Readers of this blog know that my daughter and I spend hours at these places working on engineering projects, building bridges and ball drops, and examining animal skulls. And many of the researchers and future investigators I interview credit science centers with giving them their start.
But the continuing controversy over global warming – not among the vast majority of scientists, but mostly among pundits — is putting pressure on museums to not represent climate change in any robust way.
In a story for Sunday’s front page of The Dallas Morning News, where I’m a staff science writer, I discovered that our local science museum – an impressive, starchitect-designed institution built with millions of dollars from the oil and gas industry – lost a display about climate change prior to its opening. Museum executives say they did not learn about the disappearance or take steps to address it until I began making inquiries about it earlier this month.
The Perot Museum’s donors have no direct influence over museum content, and current and former executives there say donors have never expressed any opposition to displays about global warming. But other science museums admitted to feeling pressure from the public to play down the fact that human activity is the primary cause of global climate change. “We don’t need people to come in here and reject us,” said one.
Image credits: (top) Perot Museum of Nature and Science; (bottom) Anna Kuchment