A Museum Curator Visits The Creation Museum

Filed in Science and Health by on April 18, 2011

An anti-evolution group built a creationist museum in Kentucky a few years ago. There are some amusing accounts from various scientists that have visited the museum, but PZ Myers passes along some observations from a museum curator who visited the museum and wrote about it in a Curator’s journal.

Asma highlights a couple of things that leapt out to me, as well. It’s not really a museum — there’s no opportunity to explore or think, you’re given a script to follow and you may not deviate.

When I visited, I discovered no way to break off the tour at any point prior to Consummation. About two hours in, I started to get claustrophobic; the spaces seemed to get tighter and darker as I walked the eschatological narrative. I decided to step away–just as racism and crime were being blamed on Eve’s taste for forbidden fruit. I tried to find an exit to the cafeteria (“Noah’s Cafe”) so I might nourish my weakening spirit. To my horror, I discovered that one cannot actually exit anywhere along the pathway. The herding is so absolute that when you attempt to backtrack, you find that the doors you’ve been entering have no handles on the opposite side. Like someone in a haunted house, you must complete the entire circuit.

The other striking thing about it is that it is an empty shell, a hollow façade. Go to any other respectable museum in the country, such as the Science Museum of Minnesota (which does have a bit of a pop-science, entertainment quality to it), and you can find extensive collections and research facilities behind it. The part that most people visit is the public relations side, with nicely laid out exhibits and explanatory material and hands-on elements. Behind the scenes, you’ll find large rooms with shelves everywhere and buckets and barrels and crates full of specimens, the smell of formaldehyde and alcohol, and spaces full of beetle larvae gnawing away at carcasses. Not at the Creation “Museum”, though!

It’s not quite accurate to call this evangelical center a “museum.” It contains almost no “information,” unless you count as information speculations on how Noah kept dinosaurs on the ark. It offers no new observations about nature, unless you think that inferring a Designer can be called observational. Unlike most other nature museums, it has no “research” component whatsoever. When I asked Mark Looy, vice president for AiG ministry relations, where the research labs and archive collections were located, he confessed that he didn’t understand the question. “This is a museum,” he finally said, chuckling.

That’s revealing. These people don’t even know what a real museum is.

When you finally spill out of this ball of confusion into the gigantic gift shop, you become keenly aware of the unholy mixing of piety and profit. Someone is making a fortune on this stuff. The museum speaks directly to the anxieties of a fearful subculture that sees its family values under attack by a rising secular tide. The visitors at the Creation Museum feel like David, facing the secular giant Goliath. They see themselves as underdogs of righteousness who’ve chosen an origin story that’s different from the science story. Like bad reality television that drives up ratings with violent and abusive scenarios, the museum drives up profits by demonizing science. The search for meaningful origin stories is understandable, of course, but the museum’s suggestion that science causes nihilism and racism is inexcusable.

I’m so glad the state of Kentucky gave tax money to this same group to build a Noah’s Ark Museum, too. (It’s about jobs!) I don’t think we should be surprised that there’s no room for thinking or contemplation at the Creation Museum. I am surprised that the Creation Museum proprietors know nothing about real museums. Have they never visited one? If I think about it more it makes sense, since the creationists avoid anything that challenges their views and think that people need to be protected from opposing viewpoints.

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Comments (7)

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  1. skippertee says:

    NO HANDLES on doors?
    Do they expect direct miraculous DIVINE intervention in case of an emergency?
    Sounds like a clear violation of FIRE CODES to me.
    Shut ’em down ’til they fix it!

  2. socialistic ben says:

    try to shut em down, and they will bitch about how the gumment doesnt get to decide whether or not their patrons burn alive.

  3. anon says:

    It is a P.T. Barnum sideshow. And as a fan of P.T. Barnum, I mean that in a good way. But it isn’t a museum.

    Barnum allegedly once charged visitors to see the “egress.”

  4. cassandra m says:

    You know, I don’t think that their problem is in not knowing what a real museum is — it is that they *count* on their audiences not knowing what a real museum is. They lack a research arm because creationism can’t support the exercise — by definition, right? Which is why their creation Intelligent Design produces no research to counter the evolutionary theory that they claim is so wrong. It is why they can’t participate in science, period. What they can do is spend a very great deal of money to try to establish alternate narratives, because really, an alternate narrative beats facts every day of the week. A thing that their news consumption reinforces every day.

  5. Jason330 says:

    This reads like some modern Dante writing metaphorically about his descent into the bowls of modern Republicanism:

    To my horror, I discovered that one cannot actually exit anywhere along the pathway. The herding is so absolute that when you attempt to backtrack, you find that the doors you’ve been entering have no handles on the opposite side.

  6. anon says:

    The passage sounds like the descent into ever-deeper wingnuttiness that Republican primary candidates must follow, and the impossibility of exiting to a more moderate position.

    Imagine legions of teabaggers prodding them along with pitchforks.

  7. reis says:

    For research, they ought to pick out leaders like Newt and assign them to a particular cirlce of hell. I’m guessing he would be toward the middle.