Science museums struggle with how much of the present to include in their future

Boston Globe: Time warp - Science museums struggle with how much of the present to include in their future

Harvard's Museum of Natural History must leap forward from the 19th century. "The university museum has two major functions," said Dr. Steven E. Hyman, the provost of Harvard and a neuroscientist who has helped create exhibits for museums. "One is to support research, and the other is education." Unlike many science museums, Harvard has both a curatorial staff and affiliated researchers who use its collection of millions of zoological specimens.
That collection, founded by naturalist Louis Agassiz in 1859, includes stunning fossils and preserved animals, which help make it Harvard's leading paid attraction. But the cramped quarters leave little room for new science.
A move to Allston would add space but subtract historical significance. "The Museum of Natural History is also a museum of museums," noted Hyman. "It was the first collection to be displayed like that for public consumption."
The new Harvard report suggests that a move would help the museum's educational side, perhaps through a new "Museum of Evolution" combining different elements of the university's collection. "In the Allston era, we'll have an opportunity to invigorate the museum component of the university," said Stubbs.

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