I first heard about the Chilean National Museum of Natural History last year, when they were a finalist for the museum category of the Shorty Awards – basically the Oscars of social media. Although they weren’t able to beat The Brain Scoop in the same category that year, the museum’s social media presence is indeed impressive.
Why didn’t I know them if they were so adept at social media? Well, despite thinking of myself as relatively well-travelled and globally aware, I’d really only ever visited European and North American natural history museums. And I thought that was enough. After all, these museums often had exhibits about other countries. I was recently in a replica Japanese supermarket in London’s NHM exhibit about earthquakes. Surely museums can show the work of all countries?
They do, or they at least try to, but each museum will usually have a strong regional or national focus. (And that was actually something I previously mentioned was lacking at another museum.). It’s not surprising, since local visitors will have more existing knowledge (and questions) about that part of the world they’re most familiar with. Funding also often comes from local sources, who might ask for a regional focus. And finally, a lot of local knowledge never leaves an area. I grew up learning all about how to reclaim land and keep a polder dry, but very few people outside of the Netherlands ever get to hear about this.
So Chile has a natural history museum which is not just full of the usual global knowledge, but also includes a lot of local knowledge. Their botanical collection, for example, is dominated by samples from Chile, and their paleontology collection includes the most important Chilean fossils.
Because the museum is doing such a good job at social media and science communication, the highlights of the museum are now available for anyone to see. You do need to understand Spanish, but even with my minimal understanding of the language I was able to figure out that the museum is currently running a “Laboratory of Imaginary Animals” art activity for kids. This looks awesome!
It looks like an amazing museum, and if I’m ever in Chile I’ll definitely pay it a visit.