Over the centuries, natural history museums have evolved from being little more than musty repositories of stuffed animals and pinned bugs, to being crucial generators of new scientific knowledge. They have also become vibrant educational centers, full of engaging exhibits that share those discoveries with students and an enthusiastic general public. At the heart of it all from the very start have been curators.
Yet after three decades as a natural history curator, Lance Grande found that he still had to explain to people what he does. This book is the answer and, oh, what an answer it is: lively, exciting, up-to-date, it offers a portrait of curators and curation like none we’ve seen, one that conveys the intellectual excitement and educational and social value of curation. Grande uses the personal story of his own career most of it spent at Chicago’s storied Field Museum to structure his account as he explores the value of collections, the importance of public engagement, changing ecological and ethical considerations, and the impact of rapidly improving technology.Throughout, we are guided by Grande’s keen sense of mission, of a job where the why is always as important as the what.
Beautifully written and richly illustrated, this clear-eyed but loving account of the natural history museum and its place in our cultural and conservation landscape will appeal to fans of dusty dioramas and digital displays alike.