Proceedings of the First Park Naturalists’ Training Conference, November 1 to 30, 1929



By Edwin D. McKee.

The value of an exhibit in place as compared to that of the same specimen in a museum collection is many fold. It has only been within rather recent years, however, that this important principle in educational work has been fully appreciated. Many prominent American scientists and educators today — principal among whom is Dr. John C. Merriam of the Carnegie Institution — believe that the opportunities afforded by the National Parks for the use of such methods give them the finest opportunity of any American institution for education development.

Geological exhibits are, perhaps, among the most important of those which should be preserved and presented wherever possible as found. Glacial scratches and grooves as seen on the rock walls of Yosemite for instance, mean infinitely more if left in place to demonstrate their story and relationship to the region, than if removed for exhibition some place where perhaps not even the original location may be seen. A still more significant example probably is found in the giant reptile tracks of the Grand Canyon where they pass beneath the rock cliff of the canyon walls. In place, even the most casual observer will note that while they were undoubtedly formed in the sediments when soft, they have since been covered by thousands of feet of various materials. If, on the other hand, the same tracks are presented as hand specimens, these factors end even the idea of their genuineness may be questionable in the minds of many people. In locating a trailside museum, therefore, a very important factor is to have the location with as many as possible of such exhibits “in situ” and then to make full use of these.

It may readily be seen that the principle of exhibits in place will apply to many other fields besides geology. An archeological ruin has far more significance to the average person when restored with its exhibits left where found, than when they are scattered to various other localities. Plants and animals are also important “in place” as demonstrating such things as life zones, and in this case extreme care should be taken not to introduce the living species to ether regions than their native, since much confusion to the student might result.


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