Through MSU Museum collections and the research of graduate students at Michigan State University, the exhibition “The Observation Experiment” explores the various ways we observe our world. On display in the MSU Museum’s Main Gallery through April 30, 2022, the exhibition invites viewers to contemplate how observation can lead to understanding and ideally make the world better for all.
The exhibition highlights several perspectives on the theme of observation including the observation of humans in order to understand behaviors, events, and how to do new things; the observation of flora and fauna so that we can understand the planet, its effect on us, and our impact on it; and the importance of observation in determining what is valuable to preserve in our world and working toward ensuring others can observe it in the future. Parts of the exhibition remain unfinished and ask Museum visitors to observe within the Museum as an experiment aimed at discovering new ways of co-creating exhibitions.
“Throughout the course of this ongoing pandemic, we have learned the importance of utilizing a collaborative and innovative approach to producing timely and relevant programs and exhibitions,” stated MSU Museum director Devon Akmon. “The Observation Experiment is a manifestation of this approach that seeks to foster student success while demonstrating the important ways in which we observe and make sense of the world around us.”
Using artifacts and specimens from the MSU Museum’s collection as inspiration, sections of the exhibition were created by three doctoral students at MSU in the SEEK (Sharing Expertise and Exploring Knowledge) Fellows program. The SEEK Fellowship is sponsored by the Michigan State University Graduate School to help doctoral students discover ways to communicate knowledge to broader audiences. Graduate students involved in the exhibition are Sandy Burnley (Department of English), Carson Broeker (Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology), and Ramya Swayamprakash (Department of History).
Carson Broeker remarked about his interest in working on the exhibition, “The goals of the exhibition, which focus on how we observe and take in the world around us, really resonated with me. Most of us likely take for granted just how much we use observation in our day-to-day lives. Observation is also the underpinning of the scientific method and all the research I perform as a graduate student.”
In addition to the exhibition, there is a robust line-up of programs centered around observation. Dr. Jan Brascamp and Haley Frey from MSU’s Department of Psychology will host a brown bag talk discussing selective attention and why humans miss so much of what they observe. Another program will focus on scientific observation of birds with Dr. Pam Rasmussen, MSU Museum Curator and Assistant Professor in the MSU Department of Integrative Biology. For a full schedule of programs visit the special events page.
This exhibition was funded in part by the Michigan State University Credit Union.