Fossil Mysteries / Misterios fósiles
Topic: Earth & Space Sciences Subtopic: Earth's History
of an Exhibition
by Nan Renner
Published on June 21, 2012, Modified on June 22, 2012
Museum: San Diego Natural History Museum Focus: Natural History
Collaborating Organization(s): Science Museum of Minnesota
People who worked on this: Lynett G. Gillette, Many wonderfully talented people, Mary Lou Morreal, Michael Field, Nan Renner, Tim Murray, Tom Deméré
My role: exhibit developer, writer, evaluation coordinator
Description and goals
Fossil Mysteries is about…
The changing life and landscapes
of one place through time—
southern California and Baja California—
from dinosaur times to the Ice Ages.
Science is a process of asking questions and looking for answers.
Look at rocks and fossils for evidence of past life and landscapes.
Explore mysteries: What is it? How old is it? What did it eat? How did it evolve? Why did it go extinct?
Abundant fossils, multimedia, interactive exhibits, immersive environments, original murals by William Stout.
Themes: Evolution, extinction, ecology, Earth processes
Bilingual: English / Spanish
Development process and challenges
Collaborative team effort
Negotiating content and presentation
Agreeing on how best to serve the audience
Lessons learned, mistakes we made (and what we did about them)
Although the exhibit team articulated a vision of visitor learning that included affective, sensory, and conceptual learning, it took a long time for everyone to truly embrace this vision in everyday practice. We invested a lot of time in building common ground, documentation, and communication.
We integrated evaluation throughout the process, but in retrospect, I wish we had done even more evaluation. Interactive exhibits and exhibit text would have benefited from more testing.
Regarding the bilingual aspect of the exhibition, we used the translation process to refine both English and Spanish text. We composed the text in English first, then interpreted the text in Spanish. We found that concise, active language translates best. We committed significant resources to writing, editing, and proofreading the Spanish text, similar to the process with the English text.
Exhibition Opened: June 2006
Exhibition Still Open!
Traveling Exhibition: No
Location: San Diego, None, United States
NSF Funding: Yes, Grant No. ISE-0205820
Other funding source(s): California Cultural and Historic Endowment; Stephen and Mary Birch Foundation; J. W. Sefton Foundation; the San Diego Foundation; more information in exhibit description.
Fossil__Mysteries__walkthrough1.pdf (PDF, 4.5 MB)
Fossil__Mysteries__walkthrough2.pdf (PDF, 7.6 MB)
Fossil__Mysteries__walkthrough3.pdf (PDF, 15.4 MB)
Fossil__Mysteries__AAM__exhibition__description.pdf (PDF, 488.2 KB)