A&MI home

158 Lee Avenue
Toronto Ontario
M4E 2P3 Canada

ph: +1 416-691-2516
fx: +1 416-352-6025


Join our Mailing List.



published: March 2004
analytic scripts updated:  October 28, 2010

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0  License



Notes from the Field: Promoting Visitor Engagement in Science through Research Expedition Sites
Sarah Marcotte, Natural History Museum of LA County, USA

Demonstration: Demonstrations - Session 1

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the largest museum of its kind on the west coast, has an active research program to collect and conserve thousands of natural specimens and cultural artifacts. With collections already comprising approximately 33 million objects, museum staff members continue to travel the world gathering specimens for both systematics research and ethnographic studies. To promote public understanding of the importance of research and of maintaining collections, the Education and Curatorial Divisions have collaborated on a series of pages called Research Expeditions on the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County web site (http://www.nhm.org/expeditions/index.html). Systematics is the major focus of all of the natural science sections of our museum, yet little effort has historically been expended telling the public how or why museum staff study evolutionary biology and the role of collections in such research. As Hawkey states in Systematically Speaking: How do Natural History Museums represent Science? (Museums and the Web 2002) “…systematics – discovering, describing, naming, classifying organisms and identifying evolutionary relationships [is a] major concern of most natural history museums. Yet few make it explicit.” The Education Division is committed to making this research explicit to multiple audiences, from families engaged in home schooling to teachers in urban neighborhoods. We have developed online activities to simulate the process of classifying and sorting specimens and authentic field research methods that have been adapted to schoolyard studies. (The site is currently under construction)

The Research Expeditions series shares the exploits of curators and educators in countries as varied as Viet Nam, Mongolia, Costa Rica and Bolivia. The exotic locales and somewhat primitive conditions encountered in field research lend an air of authenticity and generate public interest in both the expedition and the resultant collections that are the backbone of our systematics research. This demonstration will highlight the sites themselves and the collaborative process between the Education Division and the Research and Collections staff to complete a thematic organization of the Research Expeditions sites, the development of on-line activities to serve multiple audiences, and plans for future sites.