I approve of this article criticizing the dumbing down of science in museums. I think a lot of science museums need a good sharp kick in the pants, because they are going too far down the road of pandering to mass media sensations — our local museum is running a big show on the science of Star Wars, and that article is complaining about the exhibits at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia about “Real Pirates” and “Chronicles of Narnia”. These are real concerns, and there has been a steady drift away from challenging attendees with interesting ideas towards merely entertaining them.
On the other hand, some flash and dazzle is a way to get the younger set involved. Museums, especially ones geared for younger family members, shouldn’t go too far the other way in pretending that popular culture doesn’t exist, or become too dry and serious. When we lived in Philly, we’d occasionally (not often, though — as the article points out, these places have become absurdly expensive) take the kids into center city, and walk down Benjamin Franklin Parkway to Logan Circle, and we’d catch of few of the museums there. The Franklin Institute was always the one with the caravans of school busses outside and the mobs of kids running through it, so we knew what we were getting into there. I always preferred the Academy of Natural Sciences museum myself — it was just across the street, and it had lots more substantive science on display.
We need a balance. It sounds like the Franklin Institute has gone too far in one direction, but it’s still filling an appropriate role…except, maybe, for that “Narnia” thing. I don’t see how to make a science story from a complete fantasy without even a technological angle to its story.