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 scientists, but among pundits -- is putting pressure on museums to water down their climate exhibits.
In a June 15, 2014 front-page story for The Dallas Morning News, where I’m a staff science writer, I reported 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 in December, 2012. Executives from the Perot Museum of Nature and Science said they did not learn about the omission or take steps to address it until I began making inquiries about it earlier this month.
While the Perot Museum said its donors have no direct influence over museum content and have never expressed opposition to displays about global warming, other science museums admitted to softening their presentations. "We don't need people to come in here and reject us,’” said one curator from Houston.
Museums and scientific institutions across the country reported facing similar issues.
Update 06/20/2014: Perot Museum Replaces Missing Climate Change Panel
Image credits: (top) Perot Museum of Nature and Science; (bottom) Anna Kuchment