Objects of learning, objects of talk: Changing minds in museums
In the increasingly fierce competition for leisure time and educational spending, museums are seriously challenged by edutainment, the Internet, CD-ROMs, and 500-channel satellite TV. For example, if a child is interested in dinosaurs, 20 years ago a parent would have been likely to take her to the museum to see some fossils. Today, many parents would probably begin by taking her to the computer to search the World Wide Web, where a quick search reveals thousands of dinosaur web pages. If the family did not find a site among these thousands that satisfied the child's curiosity - or if they family found a great site that whetted the child's appetite for more dinosaur knowledge - the parent might decide to take the child to Barnes and Nobles to browse through several shelves of books about dinosaurs and or two bins of CD-ROMs such as Microsoft "Dinosaurs." On the way home, the family could stop at Blockbuster to pick up one of the National Geographic vidoes or perhaps even a copy of Jurassic Park. There is no reason to wait until the weekend to visit a museum to find out about dinosaurs. It is easy to tap instantly into a flood of pictures, video, and text about almost any topic in art science or history. Why should anyone bother to visit a museum to see the actual artifact when virtual copies are so easy to come by?