Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Review: Narnia Exhibit, or Mr. Pibb + Red Vines = Crazy Delicious

After entertaining the girlfriend's 8 year old brother for over a week, we decided to take an adult vacation by heading down to Portland, OR with my family... which included two 4 year olds. : \ 4+4=?

Anyway, on Sunday, we took a trip to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) which was featuring The Chronicles of Narnia, the Exhibition. The exhibit attempts to do something very unique and, in my opinion, admirable by using the fictional universe depicted in the films (let's be honest, the exhibit wasn't really about the books) as a vehicle for teaching real-world scientific concepts.

For example, one section uses Jadis, the White Witch's attempt to cover Narnia in perpetual winter as a way to discuss real-world climate change. Another discusses architecture and design as they relate to the functionality of castles in Narnia and the real world. Having previously helped install the Harry Potter exhibit (BTW, I develop museum exhibits for a living) I found the attempt to include educational content in a major "theme-park style" exhibit very refreshing. Harry Potter doesn't make any attempt to be educational and, in fact, contractually forbids venues from attempting to add their own educational content into the same exhibit space! So, I find it admirable that Disney made a serious effort to educate with Narnia.

That being said, the exhibit has a couple shortcomings. First, the broad array of scientific and engineering concepts addressed in the exhibit results in a slightly disjointed feel. As opposed to an exhibit with a strong central theme, Narnia feels like a sort of closet, or wardrobe, into which a mishmash of ideas has been tossed. Second, using a fictional universe to address issues like climate change just begs for a denier to draw the parallel that global warming is as made up as the minotaur and centaur mannequins peppered through the gallery. Perhaps it is not the best way to generate serious dialogue on such issues.

Still, I appreciated the effort.

P.S. what is up with the automatically loaded music on the Harry Potter and Narnia exhibit websites!? Were they made in Geocities in 1998!?


  1. Bonus points for going with an awesomel theme, though.

    You develop museum exhibits for a living? Very cool.

  2. By theme, are you referring to the Narnia movies' music? If you are, then, yes! I get it stuck in my head during moments of accomplishment.

    If you are referring to the Geocities modification of the HP site, then, yes with irony!

  3. Watch the schedule and you can find Portland historic martial arts school Academia Duellatoria giving classes and hands on learning on historical European Warfare and Swordplay in the back of the exhibit.

    3 classes at the July 27th OMSI After Dark
    Also 10am to 2pm July 30th and 31st.

    There is also a miniature trebuchet to play with when volunteers are present.


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