Science Museum Criticized for Exhibit

November 13, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. come under fire / kʌm ˈʌn dər faɪər / (idiom.) – to be criticized by the public
Example: The last time the museum came under fire was when it displayed the bones of dead babies. 

2. stereotype / ˈstɛr i əˌtaɪp / (n.) – an oversimplified image of a group of people
Example: Some shows promote the stereotype of women as always wearing pink clothes and skirts.

3. backlash / ˈbækˌlæʃ / (n.) – a disapproving reaction
Example: We can avoid public backlash if we don’t tackle sensitive topics in our museum.

4. tongue-in-cheek / ˈtʌŋ ɪn tʃik / (idiom) – said as a joke or in a not serious manner
Example: She made a tongue-in-cheek comment about her friend’s new dress.

5. intentional / ɪnˈtɛn ʃə nl / (adj.) – done as intended
Example: The writer said that the mistake in her novel was intentional.


Read the text below.
The Science Museum in London came under fire after using gender stereotypes in an exhibit.

The interactive exhibit in question is part of the “Who Am I?” gallery. It claimed to analyze the sex of the brain through six questions that tested a person’s ability to perceive images. People who got a high score in the perception of 3D images were said to have masculine brains. Meanwhile, those who did well in observing details were said to have feminine brains.

The exhibit faced public backlash for portraying gender stereotypes and outdated scientific findings. According to activist Caroline Craido-Perez, differentiating the cognitive abilities of males and females this way has been used to justify gender inequality, like giving lower wage for women. Neuroscientist Joe Devlin said that there is no clear distinction between the cognitive processes of male and female brains, and that the only known differences lie in hormone levels and size. 

In response, Science Museum’s head of exhibitions and programs, Alex Tyrell, said that the exhibit was meant to be tongue-in-cheek. Tyrell added that it has been 16 years since the museum first offered this quiz and he acknowledged that keeping museums up-to-date is a difficult task with the swift scientific and technological advancements nowadays. Nevertheless, he promised to update the exhibit.

The Science Museum is only one of many museums that faced criticism for inaccurate displays. In 2014, the National History Museum in London also came under fire due to outdated displays in their dinosaur exhibit. The Canadian War Museum was also criticized for its inaccurate poster of female soldiers. However, the museum claimed that it was intentional, and that it was a marketing strategy to get people talking.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         What are your thoughts on the interactive exhibit?
·         If you take the test from the exhibit, what result do you think you will get? Why?

Discussion B

·         How does wrong information in museums affect museum goers?
·         Which should museums prioritize: entertainment or accuracy? Discuss.

November 13, 2016