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Uncovering Visitor Conceptions of Fossils and the Fossil Record

Uncovering Visitor Conceptions of Fossils and the Fossil Record One of the common features of any natural history museum is its fossil collection. A visitor's prior knowledge of and experience with these prehistoric objects is expected to greatly influence how visitors make sense of these iconic displays. For this study, over 150 visitors to two natural history museums in Southern California were interviewed to find out what they knew about fossils and the fossil record. Findings showed that visitors referenced a wide range or breadth of salient characteristics when defining fossils and that almost two-thirds mentioned some sort of process for the formation of fossils. When asked to interpret a diagram of geological strata and fossil placement within the strata, most visitors recognized that older fossils were found in lower layers (suggesting an understanding of the principle of superposition), although this was age-dependent. Also, many visitors explained fossil distribution in terms of some sort of change process—either related to the organism or the environment. In addition, several potential misconceptions related to fossils and superposition also emerged from the analysis. Implications for supporting visitor understanding are discussed. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Visitor Studies Taylor & Francis

Uncovering Visitor Conceptions of Fossils and the Fossil Record

Visitor Studies , Volume 12 (2): 19 – Sep 30, 2009
19 pages

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References (28)

Publisher
Taylor & Francis
Copyright
Copyright Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN
1934-7715
eISSN
1064-5578
DOI
10.1080/10645570903203422
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

One of the common features of any natural history museum is its fossil collection. A visitor's prior knowledge of and experience with these prehistoric objects is expected to greatly influence how visitors make sense of these iconic displays. For this study, over 150 visitors to two natural history museums in Southern California were interviewed to find out what they knew about fossils and the fossil record. Findings showed that visitors referenced a wide range or breadth of salient characteristics when defining fossils and that almost two-thirds mentioned some sort of process for the formation of fossils. When asked to interpret a diagram of geological strata and fossil placement within the strata, most visitors recognized that older fossils were found in lower layers (suggesting an understanding of the principle of superposition), although this was age-dependent. Also, many visitors explained fossil distribution in terms of some sort of change process—either related to the organism or the environment. In addition, several potential misconceptions related to fossils and superposition also emerged from the analysis. Implications for supporting visitor understanding are discussed.

Journal

Visitor StudiesTaylor & Francis

Published: Sep 30, 2009

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