Fields Of Gold...

After a hectic, travel-filled holiday season, I was excited to have one holiday left to celebrate with Justin -- New Year's Eve. We didn't have any special plans, though we did make a brief appearance at a party hosted by one of Justin's friends. Instead, we spent most of the evening quietly at home, just enjoying each others' company, and it couldn't have been more lovely.

To start off the new year, however, we decided to get out and do something slightly more exciting. For months, I'd been spotting signs and banners around the city announcing the Field Museum's latest special exhibit --
Gold -- and searching my calendar for a convenient time to visit. Given the proximity of the museum to my apartment, catching the Gold exhibit seemed like an ideal outing for a cold winter's day.

Justin and I in front of the city skyline -- two of my favorite things in one photo.

Considering the Field Museum featured a special exhibit on diamonds a few months ago, it seems that their recession survival strategy is to lure visitors with the promise of glittery, pretty things. It worked on me, to be sure, but I am left wondering about if they shouldn't be featuring more scientific, anthropological fare in order to truly fulfill their mission.

Justin and I getting the obligatory Sue photo.

Although Gold featured artifacts that had more historical value than the jewelry featured in The Nature of Diamonds, including a range of gold artifacts from various ancient cultures from Europe, Asia, and the pre-Columbian Americas, and present-day uses for gold, such as award statuettes and circuitry, I felt that the actual educational content of the exhibit was lower. The Nature of Diamonds spent a much larger percentage of its space explaining how diamonds are formed and extracted from the Earth, along with the socio-political ramifications of diamond mining. Gold, on the other hand, explained the science behind the metal, and the way it is mined through a series of overly redundant panels and reader rails that easily could have been reduced by half.

We also checked out the other dinosaur exhibit, and had it mostly to ourselves. Clearly, New Year's Day isn't a popular one for museum-going.

Indeed, the artifacts were the star of the show in Gold, but even so, they weren't used to their full potential. There was little written explanation of the objects, and little to contextualize them. It seemed fairly clear to me, that the exhibition's designers assumed their audience would merely look, admire, and move on. Maybe they were right. Perhaps I'm over-estimating the public's appetite for educational material. However, sometimes it's a cultural institution's duty to provide what the public needs, not what they want. The increasing dominance of entertainment over education is troubling, but not something I can hope to resolve here.

My recommendation? If you want to see some bright, shiny artifacts without having to think too hard, go check out Gold. If you'd like to be intellectually challenged, look elsewhere.

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