thumbnail of WTTW Journal; No. 502; Africa: A View From the Field
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<v Speaker 1>For five years, WTTW and the Field Museum of Natural History have <v Speaker 1>collaborated on a unique project. <v Speaker 1>Documenting the museum's development of the nation's most significant permanent exhibit <v Speaker 1>on Africa. This joint Chicago venture offers an unusual behind the scenes <v Speaker 1>perspective entitled Africa. <v Speaker 1>A View from the Field. <v Speaker 1>This presentation is funded in part by the Henry W. <v Speaker 1>Meers Fund and the Field Foundation of Illinois. <v Narrator>[Drumming] On the shores of Lake Michigan, the city of Chicago, there is a building that <v Narrator>holds the secrets of the Earth and its people. <v Narrator>This is the Field Museum of Natural History. <v Narrator>And every year, millions of visitors walk at six acres of exhibit space to celebrate <v Narrator>the living wonders of the world. <v Narrator>Tonight on WTTW Journal, join us as we follow the museum's <v Narrator>incredible five year journey as they design, develop and build a sweeping 4 million
<v Narrator>dollar exhibit on Africa. [Drumming] <v Narrator>Africa. <v Narrator>For many, the word conjures up romantic images of exotic wildlife. <v Narrator>Vast plains and ancient tribes. <v Narrator>But what do we really know of this continent with its cultures as complex as its 53 <v Narrator>nations, a landmass three times larger than the United States. <v Narrator>And a history dating back to the origins of humans? <v Narrator>To better understand Africa's enduring influence not only on our past, but our common <v Narrator>future. The Field Museum is undertaking the tremendous task of building a permanent <v Narrator>African exhibit. The man in charge is Mike Spock.
<v Michael Spock>It's not a simple story to tell. And the idea that we would try to take on <v Michael Spock>any of it with is was really daunting. <v Narrator>However difficult the urgent mission of the Field Museum is to take on this dramatic <v Narrator>challenge in order to provide a greater understanding of the diversity of the world's <v Narrator>people. From the outset, the museum already had two key elements in <v Narrator>place. One, an internationally renowned collection of African artifacts. <v Narrator>And two, a thriving African-American community. <v Narrator>Curious about every decision being made. <v Michael Spock>Boy, the stakes for something like Africa. <v Michael Spock>We're talking about 40 percent of the population of Chicago and some <v Michael Spock>not just strong interest in it, but in fact, have their roots <v Michael Spock>in Africa as a continent and the cultures there in the stories <v Michael Spock>we're trying to tell about it. <v Narrator>As head of the Boston Children's Museum in Massachusetts, Spock tripled attendance to <v Narrator>nearly half a million with innovative hands on exhibits. <v Narrator>While they looked like child's play. The exhibits were the result of decades of research
<v Narrator>and development devoted to creating learning experiences that engaged children and adults <v Narrator>in new and exciting ways. <v Narrator>Because of his past success with challenging exhibits, the museum chose Michael Spock to <v Narrator>lead the Fields exhibit program in exciting new directions. <v Michael Spock>As we learn more about what a natural history museum ought to be in this day and age <v Michael Spock>and think more sensitively about how we ought to be and behave and <v Michael Spock>present our stuff. I think I've seen less and less weird and more and more like the norm. <v Narrator>During his 8 years at the Field Museum, Spock's unique approach has been both celebrated <v Narrator>and scorned. When his team built a full sized Egyptian tomb inside the museum, <v Narrator>allowing visitors to descend into a burial shaft, eyebrows were raised. <v Narrator>But attendance soared. <v Narrator>The new Hands-On and theatrical Pacific Island exhibit outraged some curators <v Narrator>who wanted a more traditional emphasis on artifacts. <v Narrator>However, Spock was determined to create an experimental environment that worked for both <v Narrator>connoisseurs and newcomers. <v Narrator>Spock knows his approach is not for everyone.
<v Michael Spock>Some will look at us, I know and say, my God, we're gonna stay as far away <v Michael Spock>from this as we possibly can. This is not the model for us and other places will eagerly <v Michael Spock>embrace it and say we might do a little differently. <v Narrator>And 100 years ago, when the Field Museum was built in 1893, it <v Narrator>was something truly different. <v Narrator>It was created to house the art and artifacts gathered from the world's Columbian <v Narrator>exhibition. Nearly 30 years later, the museum moved to a new <v Narrator>site in Grant Park. <v Narrator>Thousands of men and women put on their Sunday best and braved the lake wind to pay a <v Narrator>social visit to the New People's University. <v Narrator>The displays were similar to what is still seen today in many natural history museums <v Narrator>and as Spock looked around the nation. <v Narrator>He saw that most exhibits on Africa, including the fields old cases, suffered from the <v Narrator>same ills. <v Michael Spock>They really made you cringe is you go by them. <v Michael Spock>They were looking at the culture from the outside in. <v Michael Spock>They were full of stereotypes. <v Michael Spock>They were also looking about Africa in the past and center of Africa now.
<v Michael Spock>And I think that's what gave us this tremendous urge to tell <v Michael Spock>it Africa in a way that was fresh from the African <v Michael Spock>viewpoint. And they talked about Africa as it is now, as well as it was in the past. <v Narrator>[Traditional singing] <v Narrator>In order to achieve his goal, Spock took a bold and unusual step. <v Narrator>He reached out to the public and asked what they wanted in the exhibit. <v Narrator>The seemingly obvious approach was revolutionary for a public institution. <v Karen Hutt>The whole idea <v Karen Hutt>was to get input. And what I designed was something that was a combination <v Karen Hutt>of a public forum and an educational forum. <v Karen Hutt>So people had an opportunity here, you know, as a speaker, ask questions of <v Karen Hutt>the speaker on a particular topic related to Africa and then open up the discussion <v Karen Hutt>broadly to what they'd like to see in the exhibition.
<v Narrator>This outreach effort was particularly important for African-Americans. <v Narrator>The largest single ethnic group in Chicago, it represented a commitment on the part <v Narrator>of the museum to embrace the people whom they had historically ignored. <v Karen Hutt>This is also a very difficult thing for the museum to do, because to say that we're <v Karen Hutt>interested in black people, black people are going to respond with a number <v Karen Hutt>of questions as to why. <v Karen Hutt>Why now? Where were you before? <v Karen Hutt>Why did you do that racist exhibit in the past? <v Karen Hutt>Etc., etc.. <v Karen Hutt>We don't like what you did about Egypt. I mean, these are all the responses that you get <v Karen Hutt>when you put yourself out there in the community and say, we're doing something new. <v Karen Hutt>We'd like you to be involved. You're going to hear a lot of commentary about the past <v Karen Hutt>baggage of the institution. <v Karen Hutt>And so that was very complex beginning, but it was a good one. <v Narrator>The outreach effort included surveys to better understand the public's perception of <v Narrator>Africa. <v Speaker 2>What do you think of when you think of Africa? <v Speaker 3>Jungles, animals. <v Speaker 4>The motherland of our people. <v Speaker 5>The first thing I think of is poverty.
<v Speaker 5>[Laughs] <v Speaker 6>There's desert in Africa, isn't there? <v Speaker 7>It's not a jungle [laughs]. <v Speaker 8>Safaris and beautiful animal. <v Speaker 9>Architecture, ?words?, math. <v Speaker 10>All different kinds of cultures and different kinds of people. <v Speaker 11>The exotic jungles and the animals and the safaris. <v Narrator>The museum found a diversity of opinions, but they also found a disturbing number of <v Narrator>misconceptions which cut across all racial and economic lines. <v Karen Hutt>People got up and said some pretty interesting things. <v Karen Hutt>Some of them totally lacking knowledge <v Karen Hutt>and some of them based in lots of their own scholarship of what they have interpreted as <v Karen Hutt>being important. But I think the most consistent message <v Karen Hutt>is that we need to send about geography. <v Karen Hutt>We need to do something about environments. <v Karen Hutt>We need to do something about contextualizing these mass and these <v Karen Hutt>these objects that have become art. <v Karen Hutt>And that art looked at as artifacts. <v Narrator>Now, the difficult task of designing an exhibit that will stimulate and educate the
<v Narrator>public lies ahead. <v Narrator>Traditionally, museums have relied on scholars and curators to play this role. <v Narrator>But once again, for the Africa exhibit, Spock's approach is radical. <v Narrator>Instead of curators, he calls on educators with extraordinary curiosity to translate <v Narrator>academic research into education that entertain. <v Michael Spock>The reason that's so important is that the scholars and not the audience for this <v Michael Spock>exhibit. It's the great teacher who can remember their earliest question <v Michael Spock>and somehow return to that naive moment in their in their own learning about <v Michael Spock>the subject. And so I think it's too much to ask scholars to be able to have that <v Michael Spock>quality. <v Narrator>As the core team emerged, community liason Karen Hut was eventually named head of the <v Narrator>science sections, which focus on the Earth plants and animals. <v Narrator>To develop the humanities sections. Spock chose a historian from the Smithsonian, <v Narrator>experienced an exhibit tree Fath Ruffins. <v Fath Ruffins>An exhibition is not static. It's really an experience. <v Fath Ruffins>You know, it's sailed. It's light. <v Fath Ruffins>It's what colors things are.
<v Fath Ruffins>It's what feelings people have. All of which is created by what I might call <v Fath Ruffins>you might call the stage set. But the setting of the exhibition <v Fath Ruffins>so that the real challenge of doing an exhibition is to meld the research <v Fath Ruffins>with the collections, the objects and the specimens. <v Fath Ruffins>People are going to see in a setting that is dramatic, accessible and <v Fath Ruffins>provocative. <v Narrator>But long before the setting comes research. <v Narrator>Far from the view of the general public. <v Narrator>Researchers will spend months in the museum's vast storerooms combing through the diverse <v Narrator>collection of sixteen thousand five hundred African artifacts. <v Narrator>Each object must be inspected for damage measured, described, <v Narrator>numbered and cataloged. <v Narrator>Although the work is tedious, it is critically important because each piece has its own <v Narrator>story to tell and will be the basis for the many themes of the exhibit. <v Narrator>[Drumming]Field
<v Narrator>research is also of primary importance. <v Narrator>So 7 members of the development and design team set out to Africa. <v Narrator>There they would experience firsthand the sights, the sounds and the settings they will <v Narrator>have to recreate back at the Field Museum. <v Bennie Welch>Nairobi city. Downtown, on our way to the marketplace. <v Narrator>Strolling through the streets of Nairobi. <v Narrator>The team begins to understand that Africa is not as distant and unfamiliar as they <v Narrator>thought it would be. <v Speaker 12>So this is the yellow passionfruit. It's a yellow passionfruit. <v Bennie Welch>Now are the passionfruits sweet? <v Narrator>Benny Welch is a co-designer. <v Bennie Welch>I thought I was going to come off the plane, you know looking back and thinking about it, <v Bennie Welch>I was going to get off the plane and I was gonna be this African aroma. <v Bennie Welch>I don't know what the aroma was, but I thought I was gonna be there. <v Bennie Welch>Going to the marketplace, I thought the same thing as like, ah, I got to the marketplace <v Bennie Welch>is gonna have this whole aroma to it.
<v Bennie Welch>And it didn't. It smelled pretty much like any market that I'd ever been to. <v Bennie Welch>Coming out in the wilderness to bush. <v Bennie Welch>I thought I was going to have this wild or exotic smell to it. <v Bennie Welch>Smells like the forest at home.You know what I mean? <v Bennie Welch>So that was that was one stereotype that was dismissed for me. <v Tony Milweski>Here we go. Look at this. <v Tony Milweski>Acacia showing the long thorns. <v Narrator>The trip allows the team to fully explore the science themes they had developed in <v Narrator>Chicago. Some are found truly engaging and worthy of further research <v Narrator>and others are quickly scrapped. <v Narrator>The purpose of the science themes is to help people understand the close and complex <v Narrator>relationships of nature. <v Tony Milweski>Nowhere on any other continent do you get a range of plant eating animals that <v Tony Milweski>is as diverse and as subtle in the resource differentiation as you get <v Tony Milweski>here in Africa. <v Narrator>The team's guide and code developer, ecologist Tony Milewski, was hired to help the <v Narrator>developers demystify the science themes and make them easily understandable
<v Narrator>in some way. <v Tony Milweski>In some ways, science has missed the obvious. Science is so busy tunneling ever deeper <v Tony Milweski>into specific fields of interest that there's a big niche out there. <v Tony Milweski>There's a big job waiting out there for a team of <v Tony Milweski>ecological linguists, if you like, who are fluent in <v Tony Milweski>seeing into the heart of a whole bunch of different topics relating to the ecology, <v Tony Milweski>including anthropology and economics, by the way, and drawing together a kind of <v Tony Milweski>tapestry of the most important parts of these disciplines, which <v Tony Milweski>is then restated in very simple English in a very simple, sensible <v Tony Milweski>way. And these kinds of stories, although they may seem obvious, are not particularly <v Tony Milweski>available right now. So I think to some extent we should be professional at seeing and <v Tony Milweski>stating the obvious. <v Tony Milweski>And surprisingly, that hasn't been done awfully much. <v Tony Milweski>[Flute music playing]
<v Narrator>In addition to theme research, the team collect samples, makes molds of textures, <v Narrator>notes, colors, and absorbs a wealth of visual information for Karen Hutt <v Narrator>experiencing the diversity and expense of Africa. <v Narrator>It's a stark reminder of the enormous challenge ahead. <v Karen Hutt>I feel even more troubled right now because I feel as if it's gonna be very <v Karen Hutt>hard to translate this expanse of space <v Karen Hutt>to our visitors. <v Karen Hutt>And I think about how we've tried to do that in museums before. <v Karen Hutt>By giving you sort of dimensional, three-dimensional <v Karen Hutt>views and vistas into the dioramas and things like that, which I think would <v Karen Hutt>be pretty much a waste of time and money for us because we just say, OK, this is Africa, <v Karen Hutt>any kind of static, frozen view. <v Karen Hutt>We've done just what everyone else has done with Africa in museums. <v Karen Hutt>So it has to be very, very dynamic all the time. <v Karen Hutt>So we have to sort of be challenging ourselves and thinking, how can how can this make <v Karen Hutt>sense to people?
<v Narrator>Several months later, the designers start to work on how to show the science themes. <v Narrator>Three dimensional sketches like these are used to test ideas and plot out design <v Narrator>concepts. The designers must be flexible in their approach because themes <v Narrator>are constantly changing. <v Narrator>This sketch is for a storyline which was originally called Plants Fight Back. <v Bennie Welch>We thought that we would do just a section on the acacia <v Bennie Welch>tree and because we were doing the acacia tree, we would then throw in <v Bennie Welch>the giraffe through more development, we decided that, well, why don't we do <v Bennie Welch>a section on the mega herbivores, including the hippo, the rhino <v Bennie Welch>and the giraffe. And if you go out on the Mara, you can look at the acacia trees <v Bennie Welch>and and see that under the bottom of them, they look like they've been pulled like <v Bennie Welch>somebody had been going out every day and clipping them flat like it. <v Bennie Welch>That's how they get their look. And who's doing that? <v Bennie Welch>This giraffe. <v Narrator>The giraffe is a mega herbivore. <v Narrator>A large plant eating animal as our rhinos and hippos.
<v Narrator>This science section shows how being big affects every aspect of an animal's life. <v Narrator>Co-designer Diane ?Hannastrain? <v Narrator>works on an interactive game that will compare these animals digestive systems. <v Diane Hannastrain>This is a toy I brought from home just to see if it might be possible to do some kind of <v Diane Hannastrain>pinball game or interactive diagram that could actually <v Diane Hannastrain>show the process and it can, I'll. <v Diane Hannastrain>The hippo has a huge stomach that ferments <v Diane Hannastrain>the food that it eats. <v Diane Hannastrain>The giraffe, on the other hand, uses very fine food, chops <v Diane Hannastrain>it up very carefully and regurgitates it back. <v Diane Hannastrain>This is one thing we haven't solved yet. how to get the thing back up regurgitates it <v Diane Hannastrain>backs, chews it and extract every possible bit of nutrition from <v Diane Hannastrain>it. We think that we might be able to have some kind of interactive diagram, with <v Diane Hannastrain>pinball with lights, with some kind of mechanism. <v Diane Hannastrain>That's as much fun as this to get the basic idea of that process across.But
<v Diane Hannastrain>the emphasis is always on the material. <v Diane Hannastrain>It's always on the message. And that's the only test of things. <v Diane Hannastrain>Does it get the message across? <v Diane Hannastrain>No matter how exciting it is, if it if it doesn't communicate, it's worthless <v Diane Hannastrain>to ensure that the focus is on the message and not just the phone. <v Diane Hannastrain>The museum visitors are constantly asked to test early design. <v Therese Quinn>Do you think those words are adequate or do you think it'd be better if we said small <v Therese Quinn>intestine, large intestine or [continues talking] <v Narrator>Visitor evaluations give the developers and the designers immediate feedback on <v Narrator>everything from design appeal to subject comprehension. <v Therese Quinn>Mostly people look at the balls first. <v Therese Quinn>The balls sort of symbolize the food going down and people get really involved in all the <v Therese Quinn>physical activity, which is a problem, I think with interactive sometimes it's so much <v Therese Quinn>going on that you kind of want to look at that and not read the labels. <v Therese Quinn>But after I asked people to read the labels then, I got some comments <v Therese Quinn>that I sort of expected. Like people didn't understand a lot of the words. <v Therese Quinn>Well, not a lot of them, but there were a few words that people kept flagging like <v Therese Quinn>protein extraction. People just didn't get that. <v Therese Quinn>It doesn't make sense to them. A few of the children didn't know what dung meant.
<v Therese Quinn>So I don't know what we'll do about how we'd relabeled the dung. <v Therese Quinn>But people knew they kind of knew what to look like, but they weren't quite sure what the <v Therese Quinn>word was. So it lets me know we're really sorry at the base level for a lot of <v Therese Quinn>information. <v Narrator>As development continues, the hall selected to host the Africa exhibit must be cleared <v Narrator>of old installations clearing the halls fires the starting gun. <v Narrator>The race to the finish is now on. <v Narrator>Production crews quickly move in to start building. <v Narrator>At times, they will push ahead of both the developers and designers. <v Narrator>The game of catch up will continue until the exhibits completion. <v Bennie Welch>Because we're moving somewhat on a fast track, these guys <v Bennie Welch>have started building the rift section before <v Bennie Welch>its design. Basically, what we have is a floor plan. <v Bennie Welch>We had a space that this thing would fit in. <v Bennie Welch>And I knew because we were wrapping people up and down that we had to have a certain <v Bennie Welch>configuration to get them in and to get them out. <v Bennie Welch>So once we had that solved and said, OK, this is how we're gonna get him in. <v Bennie Welch>This is how we're going to get him out.
<v Bennie Welch>Then a ramp, a ramp floor floorplan was drawn after that wrapped floorplan <v Bennie Welch>was drawn. We handed it over to production and said build it. <v Bennie Welch>So they're kind of building in a dark because design is still on my board. <v Bennie Welch>Basically, you have a lot of things going on simultaneously. <v Bennie Welch>You have design going on. You have production going on and development going on <v Bennie Welch>all same simultaneously. <v Bennie Welch>And the idea here is that there are going to come to a point and come together. <v Bennie Welch>However, in doing that, in my experience, have been this first time <v Bennie Welch>out that a lot of times they all don't meet. <v Narrator>One of the reasons they don't meet is tied to choosing the themes for the exhibit. <v Narrator>This meeting is to discuss a story called Where's the Jungle? <v Narrator>It was conceived as a major science theme for the exhibit in order to confront the <v Narrator>popular misconception that Africa is covered by jungles. <v Narrator>In fact, less than 10 percent of the continent plays host to tropical rainforests. <v Narrator>The story was nursed for three years before ending up as a single question on a simple <v Narrator>card.
<v Fath Ruffins>Well, we started out this exhibit, and to some extent this is still true. <v Fath Ruffins>It was going to be an exhibit about everything in Africa from the beginning of time to <v Fath Ruffins>the present. You know, all cultures, all languages, science, <v Fath Ruffins>as well as, you know, cultural science. <v Fath Ruffins>I mean, you know, it's gonna be about everything. Of course, you can't really do any <v Fath Ruffins>exhibit about everything. <v Narrator>For the humanities sections, which cover two thirds of the exhibit space. <v Narrator>The questions about what to present are even more pressing because the humanities themes <v Narrator>focus on people and how they should be defined and represented. <v Narrator>The themes are always hotly debated in roundtable. <v Narrator>Discussions like this one are held with scholars and the exhibit developers to get ideas <v Narrator>flowing. <v Speaker 13>If people are coming to the museum, they're coming not just to learn, but, you know, <v Speaker 13>sometimes they're coming to have fun. So, I mean, trying to think of, you know, some of <v Speaker 13>the interactive kind of things that might be included as a way of personalizing some of <v Speaker 13>the experience. <v Speaker 14>I think experiential learning is is is, is a very important level <v Speaker 14>that we pay little or no attention to.
<v Speaker 14>And then if you can put people in roleplaying situations and force <v Speaker 14>them out of their shoes, maybe mentally, psychologically, <v Speaker 14>at some level of consciousness, they will be able to make that move out of their <v Speaker 14>own shoes and into somebody else's life and somebody else's experiences and ways <v Speaker 14>of living. <v Narrator>Interactive experiences are one way, the humanity stories will expose visitors <v Narrator>to new information and help dispel their misconceptions about Africa <v Narrator>and its people. <v Sheila Walker>Choose a country, a country that's got a lot of diversity like say Nigeria. <v Narrator>Anthropologist and consultant, Sheila Walker understands that it's crucial that the <v Narrator>scholarly information be made accessible to the public. <v Sheila Walker>The goal of scholarship really isn't to convey the kinds of arcane <v Sheila Walker>information that we gather in ways in which the public will find it interesting. <v Sheila Walker>And I see that personally as a problem. <v Sheila Walker>I've always been interested in popularizing anthropology and anthropology, it seems to me <v Sheila Walker>as the ideal discipline to popularize.
<v Sheila Walker>It's maybe easier to popularize than astrophysics, for example, because it's <v Sheila Walker>just about people. It's about concepts that we all live on a daily basis. <v Sheila Walker>So it seems to me that a an exhibit such <v Sheila Walker>as this one allows scholars to talk to people who know how <v Sheila Walker>to translate from the scholarly realm to the popular realm. <v Fath Ruffins>There certainly are other models for doing exhibitions, but <v Fath Ruffins>this is one which I think, though slow is particularly suited for doing <v Fath Ruffins>a sort of large comprehensive in quotes, exhibition. <v Narrator>Fath Ruffins, the lead humanities developer would soon leave the Africa project. <v Narrator>Her departure would level a devastating blow from which the team would never fully <v Narrator>recover. While the museum searched for a replacement, the humanities sections <v Narrator>would fall a full year behind schedule. <v Karen Hutt>When she left, the humanities sections were still sort of menus of possibilities, <v Karen Hutt>menus of possibilities which many of the developers were working on making realities
<v Karen Hutt>by doing research in collections. <v Karen Hutt>I think each section that was sort of defined as being a section <v Karen Hutt>at that point had already had a considerable amount of time devoted to <v Karen Hutt>it towards actually coming up with storylines. <v Karen Hutt>So I think there are a few storylines that were well-developed and well on their way. <v Karen Hutt>I think there were many that were not. <v Karen Hutt>So things are kind of in limbo. <v Narrator> Regardless of the problems swirling around the humanities team and the work <v Narrator>in the science areas marches on. <v Narrator>Susan Phillips, a replication specialist, has been given the sizable task of creating <v Narrator>both a life size acacia tree and giraffe as part of the mega herbivore <v Narrator>storyline. Phillips works closely with staff curators to ensure accuracy <v Narrator>in her replications. <v Speaker 15>These pompoms look very nice. What we're looking at here is, of course, a <v Speaker 15>head of acacia flowers. <v Speaker 15>Now that little heads have about 50 to 100 flowers. <v Speaker 15>And that's why I think these that make them look a little more particulate,
<v Speaker 15>that make it look a little more natural are better than these, that are more furry. <v Narrator>The closer attention to detail is a large part of Philip's job. <v Narrator>She and her staff spend hundreds of hours researching materials, blending and testing <v Narrator>colors, checking sizes and examining prototypes to ensure the replications <v Narrator>are true to life. <v Speaker 16>Let's see, all of these branches are from <v Speaker 16>the park, a Chicago park district. So many locust trees <v Susan Philips>Honeylocust and blacklocust. <v Speaker 16>And black locust, which are actually related to the acacia tree. <v Speaker 16>Consequently, there's a lot less to worry about in terms of bark <v Speaker 16>structure and getting the color right. <v Speaker 16>The thing is that our thorns here in Chicago are a single thorns and the acacia <v Speaker 16>trees grow double. <v Narrator>The replication staff will spend many long days drilling and hot gluing toothpicks onto <v Narrator>branches to create the double thorn. <v Susan Philips>It's so time consuming to make all these thorns and we don't have a very, very <v Susan Philips>big staff that these thornless branches are gonna be on the top of
<v Susan Philips>the canopy, which will be close to the ceiling. <v Susan Philips>We'll only see those through the branches that have thorns. <v Susan Philips>All the thorn branches will be on the bottom layer. <v Susan Philips>So we think we can get away with not putting thorns on them. <v Susan Philips>We're not trying to fool the public that this is a real tree, we just want to do the best <v Susan Philips>job we can to make it an attractive porportioned tree that <v Susan Philips>represents the real thing. <v Narrator>The painstaking work exhibited on the acacia tree will be repeated for all the <v Narrator>replications within the exhibit, including the giraffe. <v Susan Philips>Wow. Look how tall that is. <v Susan Philips>Whew. <v Narrator>To match the story, the giraffe must look like he's nibbling on the acacia leaves. <v Speaker 17>It's really depends on our ability to get some limbs hanging down, you <v Speaker 17>know, in front of the, the- <v Susan Philips>Oh, well, that's no problem. We're we're going to have little limbs coming out <v Susan Philips>of the top branches and we're gonna tailor the the flowers and leaves that will <v Susan Philips>be that the giraffe will be seeking.
<v Susan Philips>We have to tailor the whole thing once we get to the main structure up there. <v Narrator>Revisions occur both out of necessity. <v Narrator>Something doesn't work as planned. And from the formal design reviews, which allows the <v Narrator>museum staff to critique the design concept before committing to production. <v Therese Quinn>They come around the corner they see a reconstruction of a v- volcano <v Therese Quinn>with sort of an illusion of fire and smoke. <v Narrator>Every aspect of the exhibit design is scrutinized because even though the objects and <v Narrator>the labels will directly convey the information, it's the exhibit design that leaves the <v Narrator>visitor with an overall impression. <v Michael Spock>And there is a decision made designers and developers together. <v Michael Spock>Is this thing going to feel like a essentially now you're in one smooth, <v Michael Spock>contiguous phase, or are you in a space with a bunch of interesting pieces <v Michael Spock>of furniture that feels like a sort of science fair? <v Narrator>Mike Spock is a guiding force in the exhibit design, often asking designers and <v Narrator>developers to rethink their approach. <v Narrator>The team affectionately called his requests for changes "being spocked."
<v Michael Spock>What it stands for is somebody coming in too late to really be able to make <v Michael Spock>a change. And having some great idea about what you might do <v Michael Spock>when there's nothing you can do about it. And it probably is an idea you already had and <v Michael Spock>had to discard for other reasons. <v Bennie Welch>I don't know if any design has gone through a project without being "spocked." So <v Bennie Welch>I guess it might in some sense be an honor because it means he's paying attention to you. <v Bennie Welch>I guess I don't know [Laughs]. <v Narrator>In the hall, the work on the draft continues. <v Narrator>The replication staff has spent so much time bringing her to life. <v Narrator>They have playfully named her Twiga, which is Swahili for giraffe. <v Narrator>The giraffe has comfortably settled into her new home, only to find her next door
<v Narrator>neighbor is a restless rhino. <v Narrator>Chris Melander must get the rhino running. <v Speaker 18>It's head is controlled by this large motor here, which <v Speaker 18>sends a rod straight out, which will in turn lever <v Speaker 18>the head up and down. Same sort of motors, except smaller ones for the two ears <v Speaker 18>and the mouth. And it is controlled and turned by <v Speaker 18>a programable relay board. <v Narrator>While the science sections like the mega herbivores proceed on schedule within the <v Narrator>humanities area, an old debate lingers on. <v Narrator>Because stereotypes about Africa are so pervasive. <v Narrator>An early plan called for presenting stereotypes and then discrediting them. <v Narrator>Some team members are growing increasingly uncomfortable with this approach. <v Narrator>Debbie Mack, now the lead humanities developer, is also concerned about <v Narrator>unintended effects. <v Deborah Mack>We also found in our early evaluations that people tend to retain the first images that <v Deborah Mack>they see. And so if you present a big jungle and then later on, people
<v Deborah Mack>see a counter to that, they still have seen a big jungle and they go, yeah, just <v Deborah Mack>as I thought, there's jungle. Oh, yeah. <v Deborah Mack>By the way, there in the fine print. Only 10 percent. <v Deborah Mack>I didn't know that. But visually, they've they've held onto the big jungle. <v Narrator>Still, I think how to approach the public's misconceptions is a major concern . <v Karen Hutt>The other thing is that we've got to be aware of these attitudes so that the visitor can <v Karen Hutt>sort of not be beaten over the head with, "This is the truth about Africa. <v Karen Hutt>We want you to hear it". But so they can sort of discover and walk through the exhibition <v Karen Hutt>and challenge some of their own ideas that they have and some people coming with some <v Karen Hutt>very good ideas about Africa. <v Karen Hutt>Some people are coming with limited knowledge and some people becoming here like children <v Karen Hutt>for the very first time. And African-American children will be coming for the first time <v Karen Hutt>and a European American children for the first time. <v Karen Hutt>And they may be standing at the case together side by side. <v Karen Hutt>And this exhibit might help one kid know a little bit about the other kid for some short, <v Karen Hutt>brief moment. <v Narrator>To give visitors a sense of Africa's long history, the humanities developers chose to
<v Narrator>highlight the kingdom of Benin. <v Narrator>Located in Nigeria on the west coast of Africa. <v Narrator>Benin was once a powerful and influential kingdom whose history dates back over 800 <v Narrator>years by showing the inner workings of Benin, visitors will see <v Narrator>a complex system of government and religion that has been in Africa for centuries. <v Narrator>Today, as it has been throughout history, Binen spiritual and political <v Narrator>leader is the Oba around whom all things revolve. <v Sydney Hart>The oba, although there have been substantial changes in his role and in his <v Sydney Hart>office from his the early period all the way until now, <v Sydney Hart>the sense of oba-ness. <v Sydney Hart>Of divine kinship has remained the same. <v Sydney Hart>Much the way you might think that the sense of the presidency has remained the same <v Sydney Hart>here, even though the role has changed dramatically in 200 years. <v Sydney Hart>Wel you can imagine in 800 years it's changed even more in Benin. <v Narrator>Throughout Benin's long history, there have been many obas <v Narrator>and each inherited his power from his father.
<v Narrator>The close connection between power, lineage, religion and politics will be demonstrated <v Narrator>through a representation of an ancestral author. <v Narrator>The objects used to tell the story are part of the Field Museum's internationally <v Narrator>renowned Benin collection. <v Narrator>Many of the objects were seized from the royal palace during the British punitive <v Narrator>expedition of 1897. <v Narrator>Made of bronze, gold and ivory, the pieces are representative of the exquisite <v Narrator>artistry of Royal Guild artists. <v Deborah Mack>The majority of presentations on women with palace art, which we have, have focused <v Deborah Mack>on the artistic, an art historian aspects of Benin <v Deborah Mack>art with some references to the the society that <v Deborah Mack>has developed. And generally. <v Deborah Mack>You see a beautiful bronze head and a with a little spotlight on it and all of that, <v Deborah Mack>which is beautiful. But that was not our point. <v Narrator>Their point is to place objects in a contextual setting, to give visitors an <v Narrator>understanding of the objects use and place in Benin culture.
<v Narrator>The Field Museum is the first museum in the country to take this approach. <v Narrator>The centerpiece of the display is a seven foot, four inch carved ivory tusk. <v Narrator>Barbara Blackman is an art historian who has spent 14 years studying the art of Benin. <v Narrator>She is one of the few people in the world qualified to read the tusk. <v Barbara Blackman>Yeah, this is interesting. On the back, there is a crocodile, <v Barbara Blackman>and the crocodile itself is a symbol sometimes <v Barbara Blackman>of a chief. Chiefs are thought of as crocodiles. <v Barbara Blackman>And this crocodile is leaping on a victim. <v Barbara Blackman>Can you see that there is a fish under there. <v Barbara Blackman>The Izumo in his victory has has crushed the opposition <v Barbara Blackman>the same way a crocodile would leap upon a victim. <v Barbara Blackman>So these are warlike motifs here on the bottom commemorating <v Barbara Blackman>the victory in war. <v Narrator>Once the tusk is read. Conservation moves them to meticulously check its condition <v Narrator>and prepare it for display, no speck of paint or wisp of hair is too
<v Narrator>small to go undetected. <v Narrator>It is the mandate of conservation to preserve the longevity of each object in the <v Narrator>museum's collections. <v Pam Gable>But this will hold so little signage labels. <v Narrator>Pam Gable is the Mount Making Supervisor. <v Pam Gable>My job comes in when I have to specify, with the <v Pam Gable>help of the conservator, how the object is best <v Pam Gable>exhibited so that it will cause the least amount of damage to the object. <v Narrator>Because of its size, weight and material, the Benin tusk presents special problems. <v Narrator>Wendy Morton is the watchful eye of conservation. <v Wendy Morton>Ivory has a tendency to laminate and or peel apart because <v Wendy Morton>of its structure. And that's what happened to this one here. <v Wendy Morton>So when they designed the mount, I specified <v Wendy Morton>that it couldn't it couldn't be weight bearing on its end. <v Narrator> A heavy steel rod supports a metal cradle designed to disperse the weight of the tusk. <v Narrator>The hollow end of the tusk is supported by a polyethylene core.
<v Narrator>Though not all of the artifacts will require such special attention. <v Narrator>Each of the 350 objects included in the Africa exhibit will require a handcrafted mount. <v Narrator>As visitors shuttled between exhibits. <v Narrator>They get a sneak peek at the construction that's in full swing in the hall. <v Narrator>The developer's ideas are beginning to manifest in plywood, plaster and paint. <v Narrator>The animal digestion game that had such simple beginnings as a child's toy has <v Narrator>turned out to be one of the most complex pieces in the exhibit. <v Narrator>Building a game from scratch that is appealing, easy to use and can withstand constant <v Narrator>visitor use takes a lot of time. <v Narrator>And when the exhibit first started with the science sections, developers and designers <v Narrator>thought the sky was the limit. <v Dan Brinkmeier>The designers and developers really said we want this and we want that, that's why we <v Dan Brinkmeier>want this. And it's a lot in there. <v Dan Brinkmeier>I mean, that thing is packed with with stuff, with replications and their actives <v Dan Brinkmeier>and lots of detail and things like that. <v Dan Brinkmeier>At that point, there was no reason why they couldn't.
<v Narrator>Now, standing just beyond the halfway mark. <v Narrator>A sense of urgency is starting to grow and luxuries afforded to the early science <v Narrator>section are gone. <v Dan Brinkmeier>At this point, we're really trying to limit everything that we can now. <v Dan Brinkmeier>We're looking at everything very, very, very hard about <v Dan Brinkmeier>is it going to take too much time? We just can't afford to do it anymore. <v Narrator>To ease the increasing pressure, developers were asked to streamline themes and cut back <v Narrator>on artifacts selected for display. <v Narrator>And the one section that focuses more on ideas instead of objects is the one <v Narrator>that is most difficult to develop. <v Narrator>It looks at the African diaspora or the dispersal of Africans around the world. <v Narrator>The Field Museum chose to focus on the journey, life and cultural influence of <v Narrator>Africans in the Americas. <v Narrator>Many developers feel that this section should highlight the positive African <v Narrator>contributions to the Americas, while others strongly believe the section should <v Narrator>focus on the more painful topic of slavery. <v Karen Hutt>I think originally the museum wanted to do an exhibition about slavery and oppression
<v Karen Hutt>and racism when it came to the Diaspora section. <v Karen Hutt>I think that was the first thing that came to the minds of largely the the older white <v Karen Hutt>men who were in charge of putting together the exhibition team and the whole thing. <v Karen Hutt>So I think that's their reference for the diaspora is slavery. <v Narrator>The administration was not alone in their thoughts. <v Deborah Mack>Even within the team, there were people who wanted to use the diaspora section in <v Deborah Mack>particular as a way to vent frustrations, anger's historical injustices. <v Deborah Mack>And those come out, I feel, very clearly in the exhibit. <v Narrator>And the way in which those feelings are clearly depicted is a dramatic entrance to the <v Narrator>diaspora, where visitors leave Africa and travel to the Americas through the Middle <v Narrator>Passage, the voyage that slaves made across the Atlantic. <v Narrator>The passage is designed to stir visitors emotionally and physically. <v Bennie Welch>Because what we're gonna do is we're just not going to put a fan in or air conditioning. <v Bennie Welch>So it's gonna be a little bit stuffy. We'll put down wooden floors, wooden planks, <v Bennie Welch>rough cut, which will be creaky and loud.
<v Bennie Welch>We actually going to add some some audio to this also. <v Bennie Welch>And my interpretation of this is that I want this to be very dark and the <v Bennie Welch>images will be in black and white. <v Bennie Welch>Once you come out of the middle passage, we're gonna smack you right in the face <v Bennie Welch>with the auction block and you will be standing on the auction block. <v Narrator>Developer Calvin Grey remembers why dealing with slavery and designing the passage <v Narrator>was so difficult. <v Calvin Grey>Psychological change, emotions, not a clear understanding <v Calvin Grey>or not wanting to deal with the issue. <v Calvin Grey>It hurts for some to face the truth. <v Calvin Grey>So exploring the <v Calvin Grey>information, for many, it can be painful. <v Michael Spock>Plus, I think it's a scary story. <v Michael Spock>It's really it's full of horrible things the people were doing to each other.
<v Michael Spock>I think the damage was profound. <v Michael Spock>I think it's still there. Still colors <v Michael Spock>the way I think about African-Americans, about the way they think about me. <v Michael Spock>It's not an easy subject. There's scar tissue all over the place. <v Michael Spock>And as long as you long as it's there, it's going to be a tough story to tell. <v Michael Spock>And it's not gonna be easy agreement about how to do it. <v Narrator>But the diaspora is more than a horrific story of oppression, pain and loss. <v Narrator>It is also a celebration of people's incredible survival, adaptation and change <v Narrator>in the Americas. [Drumming music] <v Deborah Mack>If Africans left empty handed, but not empty headed, then what institutions, <v Deborah Mack>social structures, systems of knowledge, technology did Africans bring with them? <v Deborah Mack>And we tried to show how those played out in the Americas.
<v Deborah Mack>Our other point of emphasis is what happened to Africans as people. <v Deborah Mack>How do they re structure themselves, reconstitute themselves, reorganize themselves <v Deborah Mack>and build new communities? <v Deborah Mack>And we do this utilizing the concept of culture creolization, <v Deborah Mack>because you have numerous groups of diverse Africans coming together in one <v Deborah Mack>place with numerous groups of Europeans and Native American populations. <v Deborah Mack>And all of this in combination create something new. <v Narrator>The diaspora also helps African-Americans to help connect with each other in a not so <v Narrator>distant past. <v Bennie Welch>I didn't actually really realize how much of me was in here until I brought my mother in <v Bennie Welch>to show her the exhibit. And I showed her a particular case that we had been working <v Bennie Welch>on and there was a linen and cotton bag and therefore picking cotton in <v Bennie Welch>it. And for her to say to me, oh, I mean, I was I was <v Bennie Welch>corrected by my mom, which is who said, you know, that linen bag you have in there is way <v Bennie Welch>too small. Well, put it in here as a prop, not a real
<v Bennie Welch>linen bag. But she said, yeah, but it's it's way too small because when I remember we <v Bennie Welch>picked cotton, the bag would be this big. <v Bennie Welch>And then I had to push my foot down in there to stuff it in and I could make sure I got <v Bennie Welch>100 pounds of cotton in that bag. <v Bennie Welch>And that sent chills all over my body because I never knew that my mother ever picked in <v Bennie Welch>cotton in her life. <v Narrator>Most exhibit sections don't draw such emotional responses. <v Narrator>So to help guide visitors both physically through the exhibit hall and thoughtfully <v Narrator>through the information exhibits rely on labels. <v Narrator>Labels are the basic and primary vehicle on which the developer's messages are carried. <v Narrator>Graphic designer Mary Choose. <v Mary Choose>Let's imagine that you went into an exhibit hall that ac- actually had no <v Mary Choose>words at all. It was just pictures and things in a case. <v Mary Choose>Basically, it be like going to an art gallery. <v Mary Choose>You have no way to interpret what the things are, what the things mean, or <v Mary Choose>to give it any kind of context. <v Mary Choose>So labels are really important, especially in the Natural History Museum, <v Mary Choose>to be able to explain what the meaning of artifacts are, what we know
<v Mary Choose>about people's cultures, as well as a lot of scientific things. <v Narrator>With the work in the hall coming to an end, it's time to install the labels and the <v Narrator>artifacts. Placing the objects into the cases is always one of the last deps <v Narrator>in building an exhibit because many of the objects are valuable and some irreplaceable. <v Narrator>Conservation has several requirements for the objects' new homes. <v Narrator>Behind the walls are elaborate systems to maintain a constant humidity. <v Narrator>In the cases, the glass is laminated to prevent breakage, and every case <v Narrator>is outfitted with an alarm system. <v Narrator>Though many stories highlight objects from the collections, there are those that depend <v Narrator>on props, photos and multimedia. <v Narrator>The entrance to the exhibit hall is just such a section. <v Deborah Mack>I want to be sure that we've got those, not just the public health. <v Deborah Mack>[Interrupted by colleague] <v Speaker 19>I think that should go in the exhibit. <v Narrator>The entrance is a street scene based on the city of Dakar in Senegal, on the west coast <v Narrator>of Africa. Developers chose to recreate Dekar because though born of <v Narrator>colonization. It is a uniquely African city.
<v Narrator>The street scene features an extended family from the suburb of Grand Yoff that welcomes <v Narrator>visitors during Tabaski, the biggest religious festival of the year. <v Narrator>The family is presented as lifesize photographic cutouts. <v Deborah Mack>We want people to feel that they can personally relate to that, to the individuals that <v Deborah Mack>they're seeing that it's not. Oh, aren't they interesting? <v Deborah Mack>Aren't they different? Aren't they exotic? <v Deborah Mack>But it's something they can really relate to. There are grandparents. <v Deborah Mack>There are little babies running around. There are teenage boys. <v Deborah Mack>There are girls fixing their hair, you know, appearances for Tabaski, dressing up new <v Deborah Mack>clothes. All this is really important. <v Deborah Mack>We show different ages, different lifestyles and a sense different people doing things <v Deborah Mack>in preparation for this. But you get to meet them encounter on and one on one. <v Narrator>The Dakar entrance provides a fresh, contemporary view of urban Africa and <v Narrator>shows that daily life on a distant continent, although different, can be quite familiar. <v Narrator>With just over a year remaining before the scheduled exhibit <v Narrator>opening, the Senegal section must move at an accelerated pace. <v Speaker 20>I'm going to just a modest panic here [laughs] how these instructions
<v Speaker 20>to beef [Interrupted by colleague]. <v Speaker 21>I'd give up the bustop if I have to give up something. <v Speaker 20>That I think is that would be the first to go. <v Narrator>As with all sections that are created at the end of the process, it is on an unavoidable <v Narrator>collision course with one of the greatest obstacles and exhibitry: the budget. <v Deborah Mack>When you have a budget crunch, it means that things get sparser, simpler, disappear <v Deborah Mack>completely. Exhibit developer can come up with wonderful ideas and a designer <v Deborah Mack>has to make them 3D. <v Deborah Mack>And when you have a budget crunch, you can't build a three dimensional palm tree. <v Deborah Mack>You have to paint it on a wall because we don't have enough money. <v Deborah Mack>We can't hire the labor. We can't do the research. <v Deborah Mack>We don't have enough for the materials. <v Deborah Mack>A more severe budget crunch says we don't have money to develop that space <v Deborah Mack>at all. And so it's going to become a lounge. <v Deborah Mack>It's going to become a an empty transition space. <v Deborah Mack>We're going to leave it with a floor texture, but nothing on the walls. <v Deborah Mack>And it detracts from it takes away from your story.
<v Michael Spock>Every project I've ever worked on has had budget troubles at some place. <v Michael Spock>I never had enough money to do everything we want to do. <v Michael Spock>In fact, if we start out with enough money to do everything we wanted to do, we'd also <v Michael Spock>find that our grandiose notions about how <v Michael Spock>we would spend that money are already been overtaken or were taking the money <v Michael Spock>that was actually available so you never have enough money. <v Michael Spock>So in fact, a lot of what you're doing all the way through an exhibit project is <v Michael Spock>peeling stuff off the you can't afford to do or you can't figure out how to do it in that <v Michael Spock>kind of thing. So there there's not just a budget crunch. <v Michael Spock>There's continuous budget crunching going on. <v Narrator>The crunch of money and time is felt in a very real way in the hall. <v Susan Philips>This is our third major tree. <v Susan Philips>So African baobab tree. <v Susan Philips>This one, the framework we built primarily out of PVC pipes <v Susan Philips>in that way. It was really easy at first. <v Susan Philips>We just bought a lot of pipes and joints and glued them together and now have.
<v Susan Philips>We're sort of seeing what happens when we build the out of PVC pipes. <v Susan Philips>The first tree, the acacia tree had teeny tiny little leaves that were extremely <v Susan Philips>time consuming. The second tree, the date palm tree had <v Susan Philips>we bought dried palm fronds to make the canopy for that. <v Susan Philips>So it it was pretty efficient and effective <v Susan Philips>on this one, though, we discussed it with the botanist and then decided <v Susan Philips>this would be the dry season when there when there were no leaves. <v Narrator>Though the tree for Senegal isn't blooming street art definitely it's <v Narrator>the field museum asked for students from the Paul Robeson High School in Chicago to <v Narrator>paint a street mural under the guidance of a local artist. <v Narrator>The mural depicts Amadou Bumba, a holy man from the late 19th century <v Narrator>who was a symbol of resistance to French colonialism. <v Narrator>For the students, learning about Africa and Senegal has been an enriching opportunity. <v Narrator>They hope other young African-Americans will take advantage of through the exhibit.
<v Speaker 22>Most of the black kids now, they don't have anything to do. <v Speaker 22>They need to come learn about they background and them and mostly themselves. <v Speaker 22>So it even if they don't decide to come it'd be <v Speaker 22>great, if you are at least offered it to em. <v Speaker 22>And let em know that it's possible that you can come and see em there for <v Speaker 22>them to come see what they're all about and their history and culture is all about. <v Narrator>For the young artists, it is also a chance to paint themselves into the field museum's <v Narrator>history. <v Speaker 22>Pretty cool right now. We just come back in about 10 years and it still be there. <v Speaker 22>Tell everybody we did that. <v Narrator>[Traditional African music playing] History in the making. Opening day, November 13th, <v Narrator>1993. <v Michael Spock>Isn't it great? Fantastic It's better than I hoped.
<v Narrator>For the Field Museum's Africa team, the exhibit opening brings to an end the highs <v Narrator>and lows of a 5 year roller coaster ride. <v Bennie Welch>There have been times when I wasn't sure what it was gonna be. <v Bennie Welch>And then there was times when I just knew I was gonna be. <v Bennie Welch>And then there was times when I just wish it would hurry up and be. <v Bennie Welch>But I think it's an excellent show. <v Deborah Mack>[Applause] Overall, I'm pleased with it. There are some parts that actually sing to me, <v Deborah Mack>and they really they're very strong to me and they really <v Deborah Mack>I'm really pleased. But, boy, was it rough. <v Narrator>What made it especially rough was the passionate commitment on the part of the whole team <v Narrator>to tell a story about Africa that conveyed not only the scientific truths, <v Narrator>but the heart and soul of the continent. <v Narrator>Willard Boyd, Field Museum president. <v William Boyd>The museum is changing because it's seeking to involve the peoples
<v William Boyd>whose cultures and whose environmental habitats are represented <v William Boyd>in our collections. How do we be <v William Boyd>their museum in every way, shape and form. <v Speaker 23>We have a concept of Africa being one place and this <v Speaker 23>exhibit here is giving us a chance to see that Africa is actually many countries. <v Speaker 23>My ancestry is from West Africa. <v Speaker 23>So it's primarily interested in that. <v Speaker 23>It's good to see that there's history involved in East Africa, <v Speaker 23>South Africa as well as North Africa. <v Narrator>Every section of the exhibit represents a full blown collaboration between scholars, <v Narrator>developers and the community. <v Narrator>The process was painfully democratic, but ultimately a brilliant achievement. <v Michael Spock>There is not a voice. There are many voices. <v Michael Spock>And so as many voices will come out at different sections
<v Michael Spock>of this exhibit in different ways. And there were many voices that made for many <v Michael Spock>different arguments along the way about which was the authentic voice <v Michael Spock>for this thing. <v Speaker 24>This is a good section of the exhibit here coming through the diaspora where we started <v Speaker 24>out in a holding cell when the slaves were held before coming onto the ship, then into <v Speaker 24>the hull of the ship where they were brought over to the Americas. <v Speaker 24>And it can start quite a bit of emotion when you stop and really pay attention to <v Speaker 24>the fact that these were people and these were families, I think, as we thought about <v Speaker 24>slavery historically, I think we must detach ourselves from <v Speaker 24>the fact that these were just like us. People, mothers who had children, husbands who had <v Speaker 24>wives. But if you really stop for a moment, understand these are people you <v Speaker 24>can't help but to feel some type of emotion. <v Narrator>The Africa exhibit is a magnificent touchstone. <v Narrator>It demonstrates that a world renowned cultural institution can move beyond tradition <v Narrator>to find bold new ways to respond to the public.
WTTW Journal
Episode Number
No. 502
Africa: A View From the Field
Producing Organization
WTTW (Television station : Chicago, Ill.)
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The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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"According to Michael Spock, Vice President for Public Programs at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, 'When you look around America, there are really very few exhibits that address the issues of Africans and African-Americans, and the links between them, in any sort of reasonable way. They seem too narrowly focused or so old-fashioned in perspective that they make you cringe when you go by them.' "In 1987, the Field Museum set out to change that. As one of the four great natural history museums in the world, with some of the finest and most impressive African ethnological collections, the museum has undertaken a monumental challenge: the construction of a permanent multidisciplinary exhibit on Africa. "With more than 100 hours of tape shot over the five-year preparation process, WTTW's production team captured the development of this exhibit which, unprecedented in size, approach, and presentation, spans 15,000 square feet. "Interspersed with interviews with scholars, scientists, designers and developers, this documentary presents the viewer with a deeper understanding of their particular area of expertise and the professional and scholarly considerations involved in creating such an exhibit. Archival slides and photographs from the museum, as well as photographs from the researches' trip to Africa, help to provide additional visual support. Museum staff and researchers worked closely with the producer to ensure accuracy and relevancy."--1993 Peabody Awards entry form.
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Producing Organization: WTTW (Television station : Chicago, Ill.)
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The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
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Chicago: “WTTW Journal; No. 502; Africa: A View From the Field,” 1993-11-17, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 26, 2022,
MLA: “WTTW Journal; No. 502; Africa: A View From the Field.” 1993-11-17. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 26, 2022. <>.
APA: WTTW Journal; No. 502; Africa: A View From the Field. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from