GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 310-10
Presentation Time: 10:45 AM


MAYER, Paul S., Gantz Family Collections Center, Field Museum of Natural History, 1400 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, IL 60605-2496,

In the age of social media and shrinking budgets, museums are trying to tap into large and potentially new audiences by take advantage of the latest mobile technologies. The Field Museum efforts in social media continue to grow, occasionally go viral, and are reaching more people. Collections are also being digitized and made available online through databases and online educational websites like the Virtual Silurian Reef. However, through my experience in presenting a variety of programming to the public, I find many visitors want to be engaged on a more personal level and one of the most asked questions is, “Are those fossils real?” Indicating a desire to see actual specimens rather then just virtual objects.

The Field Museum’s latest exhibit, Specimens, tells the story of the 30 million specimens in the museum’s collection that are not on display and why they are important using videos, computer games, CT scans, a variety of social media, and special recording booths located around the city that allows members of the public to add their own voice to the exhibit. Traditional museum events such as Members’ Nights, two days when members of the museum can tour behind the scenes and see collections and learn about current research at the museum, are as popular as ever and expanding. Additional events such as Dozin’ With The Dinos, ID Day, Cinema Science, WeDigBio, and Meet-A-Scientist have been added along with evening programs for adults such as Base Camp and popup museum collections displayed at local bars. These events offer the opportunity to examine real specimens from the collections and to learn about the research that goes on at the museum, but in a personal one-on-one interaction between museum scientists and the public. As collections are digitized and made available online and current trends in mobile technologies are attracting the attention of larger audiences, museums need to continue to make actual specimens available and provide more opportunities for the public to interact with museum collections and staff on a deeper level.

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