As part of the September 2009 edition of Six Months, the Museum Victoria magazine, we invited Moshe Reuveni to share his thoughts on Museum Victoria and MV Membership. Moshe Reuveni is a new member to the museum, and accepted the challenge at hand!
We would like to thank Moshe for his exceptional thoughtfulness when responding to our questions.
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Moshe Reuveni and Jo-Anne Hopkins at Cambridge University
Source: Moshe Reuveni
When did you become an MV Member?
We became members back in April 2009, when we took our nearly two year old son to see the Melbourne Museum for the very first time. He got to the stage where he's positively stimulated by such places and can start "digesting" them, so we thought it would be great to use the opportunity to make members of ourselves. I have to say I am curious to re-feel that long gone sensation of visiting a museum for the very first time...
Why did you become an MV Member?
I can point my finger at several reasons. Starting from the mundane, an MV membership brings with it a very cost effective entertainment package. We have had the pleasure of visiting the Melbourne Museum on several occasions, and we noticed we always like to come back for more or to catch up with that bit we didn't have time for before.
There is, however, a more ideological motivation. I am a self assigned advocate for the positive contribution that science, and more importantly the scientific method, can have on our lives. In my opinion, our only reliable hope for a bright future as a species relies heavily on utilising the scientific approach in order to address the challenges ahead of us. That means that as a society, we need to equip ourselves with openness to ideas and train ourselves to pass evidence based judgement, ask inquisitive questions, and use healthy doses of skepticism. Obviously, such an approach could help society as a whole deal with imminent threats such as global warming. However, the same approach could also help at the level of the individual when, for example, one is making a decision on whether to drink till they drop: Should one follow the marketing hype and the peer pressure or, alternatively, should he or she listen to the evidence based concerns associated with binge drinking?
The problem is that although we've all been enjoying the fruits of science - for example, most of us flew on a plane - the better part of society is happy to be ignorant about science. While our children start school armed with piles of curiosity, by the time they graduate they seem to regard ignorance as cool and the act of questioning as tediously uncool. We, society, have to do something about this trend, and in my opinion it is museums and libraries where the battle over the liberation of people's minds can be fought and won.
The Melbourne Museum seems up to the task: While looking through The Mind exhibition, I couldn't help but feel excitement at one of the exhibits claiming that scientists today are of the opinion that the mind (i.e., consciousness) is the product of the brain's activities. To me, that statement embodies what science stands for: the ongoing unprejudiced examination of evidence in order to explain more about the world around us. Wouldn't it be great if more people are exposed to such a constructive philosophy, the same approach that took us out of the flat world where most people did not make it past the age of two? An institution such as Museum Victoria where such an approach is implemented is certainly a place I would like to belong to!
What do you like about MV Membership?
Other than the notion I am supporting a worthy cause, I like it when going to a good museum becomes a default free time activity. It's like, "Oh, what can we do this weekend?", and the answer automatically becomes "Let's visit the museum".
I also have to say I particularly like the Melbourne Museum. I have been to some of its more famous and larger counterparts in London and New York, but have found that while they were impressive they were also too grand for their own good. The Melbourne Museum, on the other hand, is very friendly and easily digestible; it may be not as grand, but by being approachable it manages to provide a more effective experience. It is a truly charming museum.
What’s your favourite thing to do at the museum?
I have many favourites. Take, for example, the Forest Secrets exhibition: my very first live encounter with a stick insect, one of nature's more marvelous creations, took place there.
As the parent of a two year old I also like the kids' play area: it allows the children to play around, waste energy, and gives us parents a moment of peace. It even means they sleep tighter at night, which is always a bonus. The play area's greatness is in providing facilities that truly engage the children's sense of wonder; in that it's fairly unique. You don't get similar stimulation at your local park.
That said, my all time favourite has to be the area dedicated to evolution, and the evolution of us primates in particular. Statistically speaking, that's the one area I always go and visit whenever I'm at the museum; and that has to mean something.
Is there anything you would like to see at Museum Victoria in the future?
I would like to see events that help promote science and the scientific method with the public. A Star Wars exhibition is nice and fashionable and I know I would enjoy it, but it does not have much to do with science. Its benefit is primarily in attracting people who might have not visited a science museum otherwise. What I would really like to see is a proper scientific attraction with genuine pull power. Say, for example, a celebrity popular scientist coming in for a few public presentations, someone of the Stephen Hawking calibre. Wouldn't it be great for the Australian public to learn there are legitimate ways for being a celebrity that do not include being good with a ball or taking part in a TV reality show? Demonstrating the merits of intellectual achievements and rewarding them, as opposed to mocking them, is important; I would like to see Museum Victoria tackle this challenge.
With this year being a milestone year for the birth of Darwin and for his publication of On the Origin of Species, wouldn't it be a nice for Museum Victoria to do something truly bold and beautiful and bring the famous evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins? Do that and I guarantee I will become a member for life.