Paper No. 14
Presentation Time: 4:45 PM

ICE, COLD, ANIMALS: WHAT MUSEUM VISITORS THINK ABOUT GLACIERS


CRONIN, Kelly E., STRICKER, Beth, KISSEL, Richard A., ROSS, Robert M. and MUNDT, Cassie, Paleontological Research Institution, 1259 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca, NY 14850, kec42@cornell.edu

The Museum of the Earth at the Paleontological Research Institution is an 18,000 square foot facility that presents the history of Earth, including the geological history of the Finger Lakes in central New York State. A planned update to the Museum’s permanent exhibits will improve and expand the portion of the Museum that deals with both local late Pleistocene glaciation and the impact of Anthropocene climate change on glaciers globally. Central messages of the exhibit are that glaciers not only carved the local landscape, but made a dynamic element of today’s rapidly changing Earth systems. Initial design concepts include a “walk-in” glacier that will offer an immersive environment for the presentation of content and concepts.

In order to better inform content development, a front-end evaluation was executed to ascertain the level of knowledge that Museum visitors hold about glaciers as a topic. Conducted in the portion of the Museum that will be the site of the new display, the evaluation consisted of a visitor survey that asked the following questions: 1) What things come to mind when you hear the word “glacier?” 2) What things come to mind when you hear, “we can learn a lot about the past and present from studying glaciers?” 3) If you came to see an exhibit about glaciers, what would you hope or expect to see?

Surprisingly, and despite the rich glacial history of central New York, the responses left by the visitors suggest that most had only a vague understanding of glaciers and their impacts. Based on visitor response data, it is clear that a “Glaciers: 101” section is required to familiarize visitors with the basics of glacier definitions, locations, and movement. Providing this information – found necessary by survey data – will then permit more in-depth discussion on glaciers’ affect on landscapes and life, the ice ages of Earth’s deep past, and the current scientific research on glaciers and how and what we can learn from them. With the installation of this new exhibition, Museum of the Earth visitors will have an interactive and immersive environment to learn about glaciers, an important force in shaping the local landscape.

Handouts
  • GSA 2012 Ice Cold Animals - final.pptx (4.7 MB)