On the third last day before the exhibit closes, I returned for one last sketching session with Scotty and his tyrannosaur brethren. They seemed markedly indifferent to my presence.
Being a weekday it was less crowded than the first time I went, so I was able to get up close to this Daspletosaurus. For this time around I wanted to focus on the basic planes of the bones and the overall form of the skeletons (as in Scotty’s in the first image, and the portrait views in the last).
So I tend to go to these exhibits a lot, and over time patterns start to emerge in some of the visitors. The typical museum guest – aside from solitary, unaware artists sketching in the dark nearly being tripped over because they choose to crouch next to the exhibits – is the young family with multiple spawn.
Warning: Rant Inbound
I’ve mentioned before my disappointment the all-too-common scene at museums of a young family blithely wandering through the exhibits, barely acknowledging the remnants of long-dead animals towering above them. Shuffling past, the kids initially marvel at the sheer size of the skeletons, the parents distractedly mumble a half-hearted joke based on the last time they watched Jurassic Park before the kids sneeze on the exhibit and start frothing at the mouth to play a game on dad’s smartphone – except he gives a rehearsed speech about attention spans and the cost of entry before returning to whatever level of Crushed Birds he’s on. No doubt a remarkable achievement.
Most kids have that level of curiousity that needs encouragement, and simply taking them to the exhibit hoping it’ll shut them up for a few hours isn’t going to cut it.
Museums too, however, are just as guilty of pandering with cheap thrills. So don’t worry mums and dads, museums have taken into account your smartphone battery and supplied the entertainment. Call me traditionalist, or just a grumpy old man before my time, but I don’t recall my museum visits as a kid having video games interspersed amongst the dinosaur displays should my attention span wander for a brief moment.
This exhibit had at least three. Three games for five complete tyrannosaur skeletons.
However, there is always the odd one out. A three year old girl, towing her dad along by the hand, gazing up at Albertosaurus, Alioramus, Daspletosaurus … jaw agape, wowing at every beast as they grew progressively bigger, no doubt the skeletons coming alive in her mind. Her enthusiasm equally matched by her father, who not only growled and roared with her at every tyrannosaur, but read the names and information displays aloud. I never saw them anywhere near the games.
Instead, they engaged with the exhibit together, fostering that unique enthusiasm and curiousity. I like to imagine in a few years time that little girl will harness the passioned interest, maybe not with dinosaurs, but in any pursuit she decides to take on. She’s already ahead of the kids who took one look at a fully-grown Tyrannosaurus skeleton, then charged back to the game where you cast asteroids at fleeing dinos or some such thing.
Speaking from the inexperienced arrogance of someone without spawn, I implore those who have chosen to procreate this overpopulated world: take your kids to a museum, art gallery, library, botanical garden, zoo … and don’t just hope they’ll be exhausted after the sugar rush. Read the info displays. Pronounce the big latin species names and what they mean. Balance the wonder of nature with the catastrophic effect human expansion has on it.
Or you know, go back to your iPhone. Whatever.