The Future of Natural History Museums  book cover
1st Edition

The Future of Natural History Museums

Edited By

Eric Dorfman

ISBN 9781138692633
Published October 12, 2017 by Routledge
268 Pages

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Book Description

Natural history museums are changing, both because of their own internal development and in response to changes in context. Historically, the aim of collecting from nature was to develop encyclopedic assemblages to satisfy human curiosity and build a basis for taxonomic information. Today, with global biodiversity in rapid decline, there are new reasons to build and maintain collections, while audiences are more diverse, numerous, and technically savvy. Institutions must learn to embrace new technology while retaining the authenticity of their stories and the value placed on their objects.

The Future of Natural History Museums begins to develop a cohesive discourse that balances the disparate issues that our institutions will face over the next decades. It disassembles the topic into various key elements and, through commentary and synthesis, explores a cohesive picture of the trajectory of the natural history museum sector.

This book contributes to the study of collections, teaching and learning, ethics, and running non-profit businesses and will be of interest to museum and heritage professionals and academics and senior students in Biological Sciences and Museum Studies.




Table of Contents


List of Illustrations

Foreword Kirk Johnson

Introduction Eric Dorfman

Section 1: Collecting and Preserving in a Changing World

1. The Future of Natural History Collections Christopher A. Norris

2. A Holistic Ethics for Nature-Focused Museums Museums in the Anthropocene Emlyn Koster, Eric Dorfman, and Terry Simioti Nyambe

3. Natural History Museum Security Hanna Pennock

4. The Future of Research in Natural History Museums Frank Howarth

5. The Essential Role of Museums in Wildlife Conservation Felicity Arengo, Ana L. Porzecanski, Mary Blair, George Amato, Christopher Filardi, and Eleanor J. Sterling

Section 2: The Future of Natural History Visitor Experiences

6. Imagining the Future of Natural History Museum Exhibitions Kara Blond

7. Teaching in Natural History Museums Colette Dufresne-Tassé and Pierre Pénicaud

8. The Natural Futures Museum: Interactivity and Participation as Key Instruments for Engaging Audiences Christopher J. Garthe

Section 3: Interfaces

9. Natural History Museums, Zoos, and Aquariums Gerald Dick

10. The Evolution of Natural History Museums and Science Centers: From Cabinets to Museums to . . . Anna Omedes and Ernesto Páramo

11. National and International Legislation Lynda Knowles

12. Natural History Museums as Enterprises of the Future Eric Dorfman

Section 4: Commentary and Synthesis

13. The Future of Natural History Museums: Commentary Conal McCarthy

14. The Future of Natural History Museums: General Discussion Eric Dorfman, Isabel Landim, and Osamu Kamei


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Eric Dorfman is Director of Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History and President of the International Council of Museums Committee for Museums and Collections of Natural History (ICOM NATHIST). He is Deputy Chair of the ICOM Ethics Committee (ETHCOM) and co-authored ICOM Code of Ethics for Natural History Museums. He is a board member of Visit Pittsburgh, an Adjunct Professor at University of Pittsburgh and on the editorial board of Museum Worlds: Advances in Research. Prior to his current position, he was Director of Whanganui Regional Museum in New Zealand and lectured in the Museums and Heritage Studies Department of Victoria University of Wellington.