The Tree Room :
Trees for museums and zoos
by the Understanding Evolution team
As you may know from exploring our section on common misinterpretations, visitors are likely to come to your institution with many intuitive ideas about how to interpret evolutionary trees. Using the following tools can help you guide them in the right directions:
- Tree design tips — Find out how educational research can help you design tree graphics that are easier to interpret.
- Tree toolkit — Use these guiding questions to choose a strategy for building a tree-oriented exhibit.
- Tree database — This database of trees from museums and zoos gives an overview of the approaches that other institutions have taken.
You can also learn about how exhibit designers, developers, and curators at institutions across the country have incorporated evolutionary trees into their exhibits with our case studies. Explore the following interviews to find out about the challenges they faced, lessons learned, and recommendations for informal science institutions interested in communicating about evolution using tree diagrams:
- Explore Oregon! Evolutionary trees in a local natural history exhibit — Elizabeth White, exhibitions designer, discusses the development of some complex tree graphics for the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History.
- Evolving Planet: Communicating the entire Tree of Life — Richard Kissel, now Director of Public Programs at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, discusses the development of an exhibition at The Field Museum that uses trees as a recurring theme.
- Horse Evolution: Updating natural history museum exhibits with trees — Teresa MacDonald, Associate Director of Public Programs at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum, discusses changes made to an exhibit from the 1950s to reflect our modern, scientific understanding of evolutionary relationships.
- Megalodon: Illustrating scientific uncertainty in an exhibit about sharks — Betty Dunckel, Program Director at the Florida Museum of Natural History, discusses an exhibit on shark biology and conservation that illustrates scientific uncertainty about evolutionary trees.
- Travels in the Great Tree of Life: A focus on evolutionary trees — Michael Donoghue, Curator of Botany at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, and Jane Pickering, Executive Director of the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture, explain how a multidisciplinary team approached the content development and design for an entire exhibition about phylogenetic relationships.
- STEM Escape: Immersing urban and rural families in a biomedical mystery — Learn about our new project to bring tree-thinking to museums and libraries across the country.