Experiencing the dioramas

 

Few of us have first-hand knowledge of distant ecosystems, which – perhaps for this very reason – we perceive as highly attractive and filled with wonders. Yet, despite their appeal for us, we lack a clear image of these faraway environments. We speak of the conservation of rain forests and coral reefs, but in practice we know very little about such places. Thus, enhancing people’s knowledge of ecosystems – even to a limited extent – should foster a sense of responsibility and reinforce the perception that all human beings depend on all of the planet’s natural environments.

In a nutshell, a more solid awareness of natural environments should translate into a commitment to protecting them, even when they are geographically distant from us.

This was not the aim of the earliest dioramas created almost two centuries ago in some of the world’s leading museums. At the time, dioramas were “erudite” representations targeted at a select and demanding audience of scholars and cultural elite. Today, in contrast, all the major museums in the world feature dioramas, with a view to immersing visitors in the exhibition and stimulating their active participation. Even today, however, the diorama experiences offered by museums are not always informed by state-of-the-art research in sustainability education, therefore running the risk of being ineffective.

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