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Connecting People to Plants-Botanical Messages that Make a Difference

Flanagan, Christine [1].

Developing plant exhibits that engage general audiences.

Developing plant exhibits that engage family audiences. People who are not ?into? plants have a hard time distinguishing one from another. In general, people sort out the complex animal word by using form, function, and life history differences to demarcate groups. Plants offer relatively few of these ?handles? that readily relate to the realm of human experience. At the same time, there is overwhelming complexity in structures and functions that seem more or less the same to the untrained eye. These problems lurk in the background of any exhibit about plants. This talk will contrast several exhibits spanning a range of size, complexity of message, and topic that illustrate how the U.S. Botanic Garden attempts to engage the interest of visitors and elevate their understanding of the world of plants. The exhibits use a number of strategies that differ from more traditional approaches to teaching botany. First, a variety of simple approaches give visitors permission to observe, describe and understand complex concepts about plants. Second, size and scale are altered to transport visitors beyond their usual mode of interaction. And third, analogies and contrasts are drawn between plant challenges and human everyday experience of being vertebrates and interacting with other animals and the environment. Examples of museum and living plant exhibits that use these techniques are covered in the talk. Ideally, the successful exhibit is the perfect storm?a mental storm of sorts that creates, a dissonance between met expectations, surprise, comfort, and confrontation. When successful, the viewers come away with a new perspective, awareness, and perhaps a spark of interest that didn?t exist before.


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Related Links:
US Botanic Garden


1 - U.S. Botanic Garden, Public Programs Division, 245 First St. SW, Washington, DC, 20024, USA

Keywords:
botanical education
botanical garden
museum specimens
plant blindness.

Presentation Type: Symposium or Colloquium Presentation
Session: 14-5
Location: Salon G - Austin Grand Ballroom/Hilton
Date: Monday, August 15th, 2005
Time: 4:00 PM
Abstract ID:209


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