Museum Models

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Not everyone is a fan of life-reconstructions in museums (or indeed in general) but I think that they are fundamentally interesting in their own right and can provide a key learning / education tool.

They can be used to explain what fossils and evidence is known (footprints, skin, bones) how this can be added to from extant animals (muscles, etc.) and completed with educated and informed guesswork (colours and patterns) with missing bits taken from relatives or other specimens. These are not just cobbled together (well, they shouldn’t be!) to make something the looks nice, but shows a chain of information and different levels on confidence in that information to make the complete sculpture.

I’m also generally fond of the idea that science is great, but a little bit of art mixed in is no bad thing from time to time and these can provide a perfect measure of this. This is true of murals and paintings as much as models and sculptures, though the latter seem to be more common in the museums I have visited, I assume because they can be cheaper and easily moved with the specimens and don’t necessarily require a large amount of space or wall support. The ones shown here are from (inevitably) the Oxford Museum.

These can also provide particular enhancement to certain exhibits by drawing in the audience or providing a frame of reference (like this superb sign). Many dinosaurs are instantly recognisable to the public as ‘live’ animals, who might struggle with a piles of bones or even a mounted skeleton. These can then form part of the draw of the museum, to get people interested and involved in a way in which they might not otherwise be. Assuming that’s the case (and it would be fascinating to study this properly and see what people like and don’t and what they get from it) then aside from the obvious aesthetics, they can be an important part of a museum display.

For more information related to dinosaurs, visit


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