A Question of Culture

I’ve been in quite a few museums in the last few weeks, and of all types: art, science, history, natural history.

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Looking at the exhibits and watching the way that people respond to them got me thinking about science fiction, of course. How do people choose what to preserve and display, whether it be paintings, fossils, historic objects, or military technologies?

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How do others react to those exhibits, and what does it say about them as individuals and as members of the exhibiting or a different culture?

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On an alien planet, would the fossils follow similar stages? How does the evolutionary history of an entirely different world shape the way humans respond to it, and how is that response reflected in what we choose to present?

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Not every science fiction novel needs an explicit museum, but I think it’s a good world-building exercise for the writer. Character-building too, potentially.

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If you had an alien museum, in a world of your own creation or one you enjoy, what would be in it? Why? Would people come on their vacations? For school trips? Happily or not?

(Photos, from top to bottom: Smithsonian Institute; Sackler Gallery, Washington DC; Chicago Institute of Art; Korean War Memorial; Field Museum, Chicago; Natural History Museum, Washington DC.)

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