Population Impact

Topic: Life Sciences Subtopic: Other

Case Study

of an Exhibition

by Beth Redmond-Jones

Published on August 24, 2010, Modified on October 10, 2011

  • Description and goals

    What part do humans play on ecosystems? What part do ecosystems play on humans? Population Impact focuses on populations—of humans, plants, and other animals—and regional and global ecosystems: how the two are endlessly connected, and how they are affected by human decisions on the use of resources.

    The goal of this exhibition was to develop a permanent exhibition that leveraged the scientific assets of Carnegie Museum of Natural History to communicate three key messages about ecosystems and the results of human populations on the environment:
    1. Earth’s resources sustain life;
    2. Populations do not grow without consequences; and
    3. Our human choices (decisions) affect the world that we live in, now and in the future.

    Topics discussed include:
    • the rate at which human population is growing,
    • how human population growth has a direct effect on the environment and the places where we live,
    • factors effecting population change (i.e. war, famine, age of first reproduction, natural disasters, birth control, healthcare)
    • human impact on white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus),
    • research by a Carnegie Museum of Natural History scientist about the need for genetic diversity of trees in urban areas,
    • research on animal and plant populations in Hispaniola being conducted by Carnegie Museum of Natural History researchers,
    • research on ecosystem dynamics being conducted by researchers at Powdermill Nature Reserve, the biological research station of Carnegie Museum of Natural History,
    • talk-back board, and
    • ways to make a difference (personally, locally, and globally)

  • Development process and challenges

    This was the first exhibition for the museum that was issue based and integrated a variety of research sections. This was also the first team developed project and where one curator was not the project lead. This new process was challenging at first for staff since this was not the “norm”, but proved to be a great learning experience for all involved.

    This development process also include front-end, formative and summative evaluation (which is still in process). This was the first evaluation project for the museum and formative was an intensive phase with all components and labels (except one—see below) being evaluated with visitors. There was a huge learning curve for staff as to the basics of the evaluation process, but also to being open to making changes to labels and physical design.

  • Lessons learned, mistakes we made (and what we did about them)

    The timeline for this exhibition was very quick (8 months from conceptual development to opening). In hindsight, I wish more time could have been spent on evaluation for the staff’s sake so they could have seen a more complete process that could have been discussed and thought about, instead of a rushed one.

    A mistake, was not evaluating one label. In the exhibition itself, we installed a world population clock without a label, assuming people would know what it was. After numerous questions from visitors and staff, we added a label explaining what this number represented.

  • Exhibition Opened: January 2010

  • Exhibition Still Open!

  • Traveling Exhibition: No

  • Location: Pittsburgh, PA, United States

  • Estimated Cost: $100,000 to $500,000 (US)

  • Size: Less than 1,000 sq ft.

  • Other funding source(s): Colcom Foundation

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