xt7wwp9t3r0x https://nyx.uky.edu/dips/xt7wwp9t3r0x/data/mets.xml Alabama Alabama Museum of Natural History 1912 Other titles include: Alabama Museum of Natural History museum paper, Geological Survey of Alabama, Museum of the Geological Survey of Alabama. Other creators include: United States. Work Projects Administration, Geological Survey of Alabama, Tennessee Valley Authority. Issues for 1, 3 carry no series numbering. No. 2 also as Education papers no. 1. UK holds archival copy for ASERL Collaborative Federal Depository Program libraries. Call number  AS36 .A2. journals  English University, Ala. : Alabama Museum of Natural History, 1910-1960 This digital resource may be freely searched and displayed in accordance with U. S. copyright laws. Alabama Works Progress Administration Publications Museum Paper, no. 2, May 1912 - including "The Museum as an Educator" by Herbert H. Smith text Museum Paper, no. 2, May 1912 - including "The Museum as an Educator" by Herbert H. Smith 1912 1912 2015 true xt7wwp9t3r0x section xt7wwp9t3r0x . _   _V_V  
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Presumably, when Mr. P. T. Barnum opened a stationary
show in New York and called it “Barnum’s Museuin," he was
not aiming a blow at science; but science felt it, and, in a
measure, is feeling it yet. At that time real public museums
were hardly known in this country; so Americans, very nat-
urally, thought only of the bogus one. Barnum was not the
first to misuse our time—honored name, but be was successful
and was followed by cheap imitators who made matters worse.
To this day, many persons suppose that a museum is “a place
where they show curiosities"—specifically, dwarfs, bearded
ladies and two-headed calves. With such an idea, is it any
wonder that they are indifferent?
Fortunately for us, this absurdity is dying out, and every
well informed person knows that the museum is not a catch- _
penny show. In point of fact, the old Greek word which has
come down to us through the Latin has not changed greatly in
meaning. The museum was, and is, a temple of the Muses, the
home of learning and art. Painting, sculpture and music, his—
tory and science gathered in the old Greek temples—all that
was noblest and best in a glorious civilization; there the great
philosophers taught and authors read their scrolls and Homer
was recited. A few centuries later the Museum at Alexandria
was a library and university, the most renowned of its time.
It has been said, and truly, that museums cannot exist
until the community has reached a high state of civilization;
while men are occupied in the mere struggle for existence they
have small leisure and less inclination to cultivate their minds.
There were no museums during the centuries of turmoil that
followed the destruction of the Roman Empire; there was none
in England until after the civil wars, until the English were no
longer satisfied with squalid country-houses and gross feeding
and the bare rudiments of knowledge, but were reaching after

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  ‘ beauty and culture; there was none in America until the pio· by it
gi neer settlements had grown into rich cities and ordered com- selve
  munities. The Renaissance was first felt in Italy, and for two arrar
  or three centuries that was the most enlightened part of the taste
  world; it is significant that museums were formed in several years
  Italian cities, and they are the oldest in Europe. and A
  Museums, then, mark a stage in civilization, and a very impc
  advanced stage; they do not come because a few enthusiasts Out i
ig; want them, but because the community is ready. Of course but e
  there are plenty of men who can see no use in them; men who Dream
  are not broad enough to comprehend that the world is advanc- and ·
  ing and needs such things now, though it did without them that
  before. They use the old argument, `“what was good enough il Gal
  for my grandfather is good enough for me." Nonsense! Your out s
  grandfather could jog on horseback, but your automobile is
l  better and will do the journey in half the time. Your grand- _
  father was satisfied with Yankee Doodle; your musical taste _
  has been cultivatsd and you demand Wagner. Your grand- lnffm
  father was interested in potato bugs, and you want an entom0— lflhst
  logical collection—or will want it as soon as you appreciate tml
  its charm. H0 ld
l  We have come to use the name museum in a special way, W€Y€
  for an institution devoted to natural science-geology, biology other
  ` and their kindred branches; for convenience I shall keep to the lniidt
  restricted sense in this paper. But I should explain that the f0i`U1
L.  word has been, and is, used for many cults. The British Museum, I0? ii
  at first, was a library and cabinet of antiquities, to which other New
 _Y things have been added. The Metropolitan Museum is an art OWU]
  gallery; the Confederate Museum at Richmond is historical; we mflct
  have museums of textile arts, the Patent Ofiice Museum and Cast?
  the Post Office Museum. All these have a perfect right to the truth
  name; they are not carried on for money—making and, assured- SOUS
  ly, they are not vulgar. Of Vit
  Broadly speaking, a museum of natural history has three H gm
  spheres of work: lst, scientific; 2nd, economic; 3rd, educational. b0Y9
  I shall only mention the first two incidentally; sometimes, in- Studf
  deed, the economic branch is largely relegated to other institu— hang;
? tions. But I am bound to call your attention to one fact, and speci
  it cannot be impressed too strongly. The economic and educa-
§ 2
i .
E E »

 tional branches spring from the scientific one and are nourished
3- by it. We cannot teach or use science unless we have it our-
1- selves, and we cannot have it without patient study. Well-
»0 arranged exhibition rooms are not mere matters of individual
lc taste; they depend on well—arranged collections, the result of
al years of labor by specialists. The scientific work is out of sight,
and a chance visitor may imagine that it is neglected or un-
yy important; in simple truth, the museum could not exist with-
ts out it. The demagogue who urges that we should have not/ring
SG but exhibition rooms or public lectures or economic work is
10 preaching an absurdity; he might as well say that a compass
C- and drawing table are all that is necessary for an engineer and
m that he has no use for mathematics; he might as well expect
gh a carpenter to work without tools or a farmer to plant with-
ur out seed.
$8 Like everything else, the museum is an evolution. In its
_d_ infancy it was little more than a collection, open to a few spec-
.O_ ialists but barred against the general public. The first exhibi-
lm tion marked an era in education. Of course, its promotors had
no idea of this; they enjoyed looking at the specimens, they
,y_ were good-natured and wanted to share their pleasure with
gy other people; that was all. The means at their disposal were
he inadequate; some dark iittle rooms, shelves and cases which,
he fortunately, concealed more than they revealed. Compare this,
m_ for instance, with the American Museum of Natural History at
18,. New York. It is planned to covcr four city blocks and already
mt occupies a great part of two. Four stories are devoted to mag-
WC nificent exhibition halls, nearly two miles of them, where every
nd case is as nearly perfect as science and art can make it. In
Lhc truth, the very richness of the place is bewildering; wiser per-
€d_ sons go only to one hall, or two. Everywhere you see groups
of visitors, quiet people, some fashionably dressed, but there is
me a good sprinkling of workmen with now and then a bare-footed
ml. boy; teachers lead their classes from one object to another;
m_ students work with note-book and pencil; here a school boy
tu_ hangs over some case and perhaps you may see him comparing
md specimens which he has brought. In these halls the museum
ca- 3

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  has gathered the work of hundreds of skilled men, it has ex-
  pended years of anxious thought and study and millions of
Ii dollars. They are strictly and solely educative. The rooms are
  nnf a gift to science; they are a gift from science to educa-
  ‘ tion and the world, and for this science has enlisted art, in-
_°g genuity, money, anything and everything that makes to her V V
Z] end—teaching. Any one who imagines that the naturalist  
  needs these cases for his work has simply no conception of Q .
B scientific methods. The study collections are out of sight, in 3  
'   laboratories and store—rooms on the top floor; plain cabinets €  
? and drawers contain far more specimens than the public cases, Ea ' i  
‘   but but they are arranged compactly, for reference. There is Q e E V
Y i no attempt to make things attractive; the naturalist wants well- (ii { V
  preserved specimens, but an unmounted skin is better for his 5- i _ i
  purpose than a mounted one and a tightly-closing insect-box E fj. ~ Igvl
{ than a glass—covered one. The American Museum is doing ;>  
  splendid scientific work, but not because it has exhibition rooms. 1 Et V;   V .'
Q .It is significant, however, that this and other large institutions _§ V; Q I
  give more money to the educational branch than they do to FD ”   _[
  the scientific one. E1 .   ·
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  lessons. lf you tell a kindergarten child that a plane triangle I QE l i
{ . has three sides meeting in three angles he will have no con- Q I A
  ception of your meaning; show him a cardboard triangle and Qu yl .
  he will comprehend at once. The pupil in geography may read Z    
  that polar bears and 1nusk—oxen live within the arctic circle, S9, · l
  but the words have only a hazy meaning; his real impression g  t  
  comes from a picture at the top of the page. Show him a E      
  bear-skin and he is interested; show him one of the splendid Q    
  group cases in a museum, with savage white bears in their icy § 4,  
  home, and the interest rises to enthusiasm. No doubt a visit     V 
  to the zoological garden would be still more effective and a ET f
  hunting trip to Greenland best of all. But we cannot take our §_  
  classes all over the world, and we cannot often see Zoological or O l
  botanical gardens or aquaria. The museum is accessible, it is l.
  convenient for classes or pupils, and it is attractive; people
  learn unconsciously, whether they want to or not. In other
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 words, the museum system is object—teaching applied to natural
science and carried to the highest degree 0f perfection.
From the dark little rooms of bygone days to the National
Museum, or the American, may seem a far call; but one has
grown out of the other just as surely as the oak grows from an
acorn. And the constant feature of this growth has been im-
provement on every line—buildings, rooms, cases, specimens,
arrangement, labels and, above all, methods. In our day a
mineral or fossil intended for exhibition is carefully selected
from perhaps a thousand others; all extraneous matter is clip-
ped off, and the object is as clean as soap and water will make
it; it is mounted on a block or placed in a tray, neatly and legi-
bly labeled, and protected from dust by a tight case of the best
and cleanest glass. Some fossil species—skeletons of mammals
or huge saurians—are known only by single specimens, or one
specimen only may be perfect. Of course, such an object must
be kept in one museum; formerly the world at large could
know it only by pictures and descriptions. The use of plaster
casts has made it possible to reproduce these treasures of
science for other museums; a score or a hundred may be made
from a single specimen, and for educational purposes they are
just as good as the originals. An extinct species is often known
from fragmentary specimens, but by studying a large number
of these the naturalist can reconstruct the creature in his own
mind. It remains only to reconstruct it in a drawing or a
plaster cast; this has been done many times, and the resulting
models are invaluable for our exhibition rooms. That useful
substance, plaster, also gives us relief maps, models of volcanoes
and glaciers, geological sections and so on.
The old-time naturalist was his own hunter, and often a
very good one; but he was also his own preparator, and almost
always a very bad one. With the demand for better mounted
specimens came taxidermy—at first a trade, but now a fine art,
almost worthy to stand with painting and sculpture. The ob-

I _§
i   ject of a modern gr0up—case is to show birds or animals exactly
_   as they would be in their native haunts; a forest home as the lv
  hunter sees it somet_imes, but as you and I can not see it ex- lures;
  cept by rare chance or infinite care. Portrait painters study meld,
g faces at their leisure, in all lights and under all conditions ; but · fel ml
E   to catch the finer characters they must have many sittings. every
¥ Q , Animals, too, have character and expression, and it is far more femur
  difficult to observe them. The naturalist cannot choose place llemlll
  and time; he must devote weeks or months or years to his task. plants
V   With softest footsteps and every sense alert he steals to some els A
  point of vantage, for these are timid creatures; a waft of air for el l
·   i may betray him, or a broken twig, and all his care is lost. If At lee
;   he does glimpse the scene it is through a tangle of foliage that lepme
  he dares not brush aside; quick eye and quicker camera are ll
  busy for an instant and then—his models have disappeared; lmclll
  d to all appearance there is not an animal within a thousand mellw
  miles. If the man is a true artist he will return again and Cmllbl
  again, watching for chances, studying every detail, absorbing A
  l the picture until he has made it his own ; then it may go down Corps
  to the ages. _ _ model
  It speaks well for such enthusiasts that they rarely disturb may le
  . the home they have studied; other individuals of the species and ll.
  will serve the purpose as well, and even these are only killed I
  because they must be. Then the taxidermist—who may be the llepel
  same man or another-takes up the task. No gentleman is meme
  . l more carefully measured for the coat which he will wear than lllbllel
  V the forest creature is for the coat that is to be taken off. Vallee
  Generally a single opening is made and the skin is taken off as mens
  a lady removes her glove, but more carefully, to prevent stretch- Well ll
  ing. A plaster cast of the carcass is made, sometimes in sec- belme
  tions if the animal is a large one. In a final visit to the home these,
  scene, samples of earth and plants are gathered; these are to mlelee
  be reproduced in papier mache. Sometimes, if the den or nest they ll
  - is not too large, it is taken away entire, or parts may be taken_ sects (
  Foot-prints are copied in plaster; if the animal is carnivorous, pupel
  refuse bones and feathers are picked up after noting their exact tlve pl
  l positions; dead mussel-shells, fragments of nuts and gnawed may ll
  twigs are preserved if they are part of the scene, or the root of llleeele
l a tree is dug up 1f there is a burrow beneath. always
Q 6 secticr
3 .
i E k

thc Most of the old—fashioned “‘stuffed" animals were carica-
€X‘ tures; our modern taxidermists slip a skin over the plaster
illdy mold, a vast improvement. But the finer touches may go on
but ' for months, and the artist always has photographs before him;
HSS- every bit of the skin is manipulated, every swell and fold and
UO"? feature; moods are depicted in tense muscle or snarling lips;
MCB hardly a hair is left untouched. Meanwhile the accessories-
i?*$k· plants, rocks, ground or water—are built in by trained model-
OHV? ers. A dust—proof case of suitable form and size is ordered;
Fil? for a large group, this alone may cost several thousand dollars.
· If At length the result is placed in the public rooms—an exact
that reproduction of animal home life.
HW lt is folly to speak of such an exhibit as a “show." At-
-i‘€d§ tractive it is, but attractive because it combines scientihc
SHN} method with the highest art; and it teaches as nothing else
Bild can, because it appeals to eye and understanding alike.
NHS A museum like that at Washington may keep a whole
lown corps of taxidermists in its employ, reinforced by a corps of
modelers. A very large case—say of musk-oxen .or giraffes-—
mlrb may be the work of years, with several arduous expeditions;
BCIES and thirty or forty thousand dollars will not cover the expense.
med Ihave dwelt on these group·cases because they are, per-
Btlle haps, nearer perfection than anything else in our exhibition
H ls rooms. Almost equally fine are some of the ethnological ex-
mm] hibits, hgures of Indians modeled in clay. ln other departments
l OH- various devices are used. For example, preserved fish speci-
ff as mens soon lose their brilliant tints, though they serve perfectly
Etch' well for study. Many museums now show casts of fishes and
S80 batrachians, taken from fresh specimens and colored to the life;
mmg these, of course, are useless for anatomy and they do not show .
76 to microscopic surface characters, but for the ordinary observer
nest they reproduce the living creature. A “biological case" of in-
?*k€“· sects depicts the life history, eggs, larvae in different stages,
musi pupa, imago, food-plant, nest, burrow or coccoon, and destruc-
?XHCt tive parasites; if the species is injurious to crops, such a case
awed may have special value for the farmer. Enlarged models of
Ol Of insects are a recent and useful addition. Shells are attractive
always, but we supplement the conchological collections by
sections and papier-maché models. Large crustacea are mount-

 Q ii
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· 4
- qw ed to show their structure, dried star—tishes and sea—urchins are
A placed beside drawings of the curiously dissimilar young. For
  years such objects as jelly—fishes and sponges could not be gi
Q shown at all; now they are imitated, fairly well, in glass; and Q
,   we have enlarged glass models of microscopic creatures. At- %
L   tempts have even been made to show coral—reefs and wave- 3
  washed rocks, teeming with life. Bear in mind again that all <§
  these things are for popular education. The naturalist, with his E
j microscope and dissecting knives, with his patient field studies, 9s
  his camera and note—book, has no need for such artifiicial aids. ;
r 1 LABELs. g
3 The label may seem a very simple matter, but labels have E
  been improved almost as much as cases have. At first they  
  were written slips of paper, often out of sight or illegible and, Z
l at most, giving only the Latin name and the locality. Then gi
i the English name was added—a concession of pedantry to com—  
é mon sense. But the public wanted to learn something more {
  than the name, so a line or two of information was put in.  
  Now we have the large descriptive label, not written, but print-  
Q ed in clear, bold type, so that it can be read across the case; in ;¤
  effect it is a short popular lecture about the objects shown. It F;
  was Dr. Baird, I believe, who said that a public museum should E`
  be “a collection of labels with specimens to illustrate them.“ 5
j From one point of view he was right. §
l E
  ivnzraons. ‘
  The finest exhibits may be spoiled for educational pur- `EU
  poses if they are not properly arranged and used in the right gf
  way. Here the changes have been well—nigh revolutionary.  
  Naturalists, like other people, make mistakes; like other people, $
  ` if they are sensible they draw lessons from their own failures. $1
  For instance, all the older museums were encumbered with §
  cases which were good in their way, but which, from an edu- E
1 cational point of view, were worse than useless; they were there g
  because museum men had not learned to put themselves in g
  other people”s places. A naturalist, working for twenty years, Z
S perhaps, had accumulated a very fine collection; he was proud
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 0f it and delighted in showing it to his friends. Nothing seem-
ed more natural than t0 place the whole on exhibition and s0
let the public get the benefit of it. But the naturalist forgot
that the public could not see with his eyes and appreciate with
his mind. He was a trained specialist, delighting in nice points
of structure, relations and differences of species, a thousand
and one things that the public did not notice at all. He had
brought his specimens together one by one, examined and re-
examined them until each was an old friend, to be recognized
at a glance; he knew that this species was exceedingly rare,
that one group was the most complete of its kind in the world
and another had been monographed by a master. The public
had no such familiarity and, when the specimens were ranged
in a case, could see nothing but mass; eye and mind could not
take in the details simply because there were so many of them.
Now we show only a small part of the collection, species re-
markable for beauty or interest, and the tendency is to elimi-
nate more and more.
Naturalists erred, also, in crowding the shelves and so con-
fusing subjects; the simpler an exhibit is the better for its
purpose. An ideal case would be devoted to one subject only,
having enough specimens to illustrate it, but no more; that is
one reason why group cases are so attractive. We can only
reach the ideal here and there; but we can group the objects
and so keep them from spoiling each other.
It may be a question whether our larger museums do not,
sometimes, confuse by trying to do too much, to illustrate too
many subjects. We may epitomize geology or zoology in a single
text-book, but it is for study, to be digested during several
months; the beginner who tried to read it through at a sitting
would only find himself bewildered. Naturalists themselves
know how hard it is to coverevery branch; in our day they
are all specialists. Yet a dozen curators, each a specialist in
his own department, will unite their exhibits in a single mu-
seum, and the average visitor expects to see the whole thing in
one afternoon. Of course, this is beyond any man’s power; he
enjoys two or three rooms, but the feast ends in surfeit and
weariness. With more experience he will learn to divide it up;
but we ought to make it enjoyable from the first day. It is a

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  ff d  i'   I I   I I I HQ  '  II I   I II I I .
B 2
_   pity that we cannot restrict visits, for the time being, to a part
l of the museum; sornetirnesl think that we shall fiud means
g of doing so. The visitor would have quite enough to satisfy f
i   his mind, he would see more and learn more and would and h
  certainly enjoy himself better. The little Post Ofiice Museum Of HT
at   at Washington is a gem in its way;