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Hannah Ashley Dr.

Erin Dietel-Mclaughlin WR 13300 5 October 2012


The Rhetoric of Museums: The Presentation of The Field Museum vs. Creation Museum
It is a place where hoards of children run in packs of matching t-shirts, serious

academics stroll the corridors in a slow, thoughtful pace, excited homeschooling mothers take their bored children, and families of all ages come to explore. Museums offer many opportunities to educate people in all ages. Highly professional museums employ researchers, preservationists and top line curators to create an experience for each visitor. Exhibits are organized so that each visitor is engaged and learning.
Museums are also a form of rhetoric. James Herrick states in his work, The

History and Theory of Rhetoric, that the art of rhetoric is, the systematic study and intentional practice of effective symbolic expression (7). Therefore, rhetorical discourse must be planned, adapted to an audience, shaped by human motives, responsive to a situation and persuasion seeking (Herrick, 7-8). Museums express different ideas and expressions. They are always planned to target an audience, they address relevant issues to humans, exhibits both answer questions and allow room for exploration, and every museum tries to persuade visitors to look at the world in a new light. Museums create a rhetorical situation; its objects present an exigence, which can be completely or partially removed if discourse can modify it (Bitzer, 6). This means that not only is it rhetoric, but it can create a rhetorical conversation that allows for discourse and disagreement for all visitors. An audience is key for all rhetorical situations, and museums advertise to


potential visitors mainly through their websites. It is essential that museums represent themselves accurately online. Stephanie Vie, in her article.... states, Today as we live more and more of our lives in online spaces, we also carry with us an (e)dentity, an electronic identity comprised of digital traces left behind as we participate in virtual worlds (1). A website of a museum should be a representation that is true to the actual museum itself, so that it can draw more audience members. This identity should not be false, rather it should promote the core goals of a museum, so that visitors will be motivated to come.
The Creation Museum in Kentucky and Field Museum in Chicago offer two

different explanations for the scientic world. The Creation Museum: through the bible, while the Field Museum: through the scientic method. These two museums differ in their mission statements. The Field Museums mission is to educate the public about the natural world through their large database of geological and geological collections, in order to help common understanding of the world (eldmuseum.org). The Creation Museums mission is to educate people about the creation of the world, by displaying Adam, Eve animals and other biblical characters in their natural environments (creationmuseum.org). Also, in terms of credibility, the Field Museum is older and has much more support and money than the Creation Museum. Therefore, the two museums will be offering very different experiences, not just because they have different mission statements, but also because the Creation Museum has to make their argument credible, to gain more support. Despite it all, they are both museums trying to draw people to come visit through their websites. The Creation Museum and the Field Museum utilize different rhetorical strategies in a similar web design according to each individual mission


statement. The Field Museum is presented as a credible resource to broaden scientic education and discovery, while the Creation Museum is presented as an institution working to gain credibility by trying to convert people to inspiration and belief in Creationism.
The Field Museum has many resources, and therefore many exhibits and events. On

the homepage, the Field Museum has ve highlighted features in a slideshow. The rst slide, Extreme Mammals,, the next slide is Fashion in the Field Museum: Maria Pinto, the third slide highlights the newly renovated Hall of Birds, while the fourth slide features the exhibit Images of the Afterlife.. The nal slide promotes the event, Dozin with the Dinos, an event that allows children to come and spend the night in the museum (eldmuseum.org). The order and the amount of slides greatly show the vast resources of the museum. There are two slides that feature biology: The Extreme Mammals exhibit and the Hall of Birds. There are two slides that focus on culture: the fashion exhibit and the Egyptian afterlife exhibit. These two slides draw on the cultural aspect of the museum. This encourages approaching discovery of science through a cultural perspective, which appeals to those who do not necessarily enjoy hard, scientic methods. The last slide, which features the sleepover exhibit, encourages children to come. A sleepover is a common, exciting event for children, and the Museum uses this to associate science with fun and enjoyment, rather than being in a classroom. They feature this on the homepage because they are emphasizing discovery at all ages, and this includes children. The Field Museum uses a broad variety of events to feature on their front page. This draws on people who are interested in science, fashion, art, archeology and biology.


The Creation Museum has a similar layout on their homepage. There is a slideshow

of events featured as the centerpiece of the page. This Museums choice of events differs from the Field Museums very much. First of all, they choose to highlight only three features, versus the Field Museums ve. The Creation Museum starts their rst slide by featuring a College Expo about Creationism. Their second slide highlights an event titled Answers for Teachers. Their third slide advertises a virtual tour through the museum. The Creation Museums choice of slides does show that they are adamant in gaining credibility in making their argument valid. Their very rst slide about the College Expo advertises to visitors that their view is being discussed at the serious College level; it is not just a class that takes place in Bible School. They are trying to exhibit their credibility by taking it to the college level. Their second slide shows that they are willing to prove their argument to educators, so that they can spread this belief. The third slide, which offers the high denition virtual tour, allows people to view the museum at all times from their computer. They are allowing everyone to access the museum from anywhere; one does not have to exclusively go to the actual museum itself. These strategies all differ greatly from the Field Museums strategies. The Field Museum does not feature their educational sessions as features on the homepage. Their focus is on the exhibits, and drawing people to actually come. Meanwhile, the Creation Museum is trying to market their educational opportunities to everyone, so they try to show their explanation in any way possible. This includes having all of their exhibits online, and offering educational information.
The second rhetorical strategy that each museum utilizes is the use of pictures and

media on their website. The Field Museums website in particular uses lots of media to


emphasize their focus and museum. When one goes to one of the links in the header (such as plan your visit, happening at the Field etc), one is immediately greeted by multiple pictures. This picture, with a brief text explanation for each, then directs one to a page with a more in depth explanation of that feature. For example, when one goes to the happening at the Field link, she is greeted by many slides and pictures that will link her to a page with text that explains the picture and exhibit. This promotes the discovery in science mission of the Field. To nd out about certain exhibits, you see multiple pictures and visuals on the page. With lots of media on one page, it shows how many journeys the museum can take someone on. It is like going on a hike, and you see the many different paths you can take, and each leads to a different adventure. Visually, the formats of the pictures achieve the same thing. It showcases how much the museum has to offer, and how much is waiting at the museum for one to explore. While there are pictures of various exhibits, there is no virtual tour of the museum. The Field wants to lure people into their own museum to see the artifacts personally. This personal journey starts with the beautiful pictures that offer a glimpse of whats to come on the website.
The Creation Museum Website does not have as elaborate a design as the Fields

website. Each page that the header directs you to usually only has one picture at the top, and lots of text below it. There are no multiple slides that links one to other pages. One has to direct herself to different parts of the site through the headers links. This is a common pattern throughout the site: one large picture is at the top of each page and text follows it. The Creation Museums website does utilize a medium that the Field Museum does not. The Creation Museum website offers a virtual tour of all of the exhibits. On the virtual, one is allowed to see panoramic, 360 degree views of all of the rooms of the


museum. The Creation Museum uses this virtual tour because they are trying to promote their museum, and gain credibility. Many critics may not want to make a journey all the way to Kentucky, so the Museum offers this tool for everyone. In the Field Museum, it is implied that everyone should be making her journey in the museum. The Creation Museum is trying to gain as much credibility as possible, so giving access to the full museum online does not cloak them in mystery. They are putting their full image out there, so people do not have to speculate what is within. A mysterious museum that supports a mostly unpopular cause would have critics thinking that they do not have a valid argument, or that their museum is not credible. By showing this virtual tour, they put their argument out to the world, and give critics ease.
The third rhetorical devise the each museum utilizes on their websites is the use of

text and slogans. The Field Museum does not actively promote a certain slogan or catchphrase on their site. They do, however, aim a lot of their text toward the focus of journeying and discovery in science. For example, different pages that explain different exhibits utilize this focus of journey and discovery. The webpage for the Conserving the Earth exhibits rst word in the description is discover, the Evolving Planet exhibit takes visitors on an awe inspiring journey, the Extreme Mammals exhibits rst word in the description is explore, and the limited time, Maria Pinto fashion exhibit starts its description by giving snippets describing some of the clothes (eldmuseum.org). This gives people only some idea of what these clothes look like, but keep wondering for more. All of these are aiming toward the idea of journeying and discovering science. It also motivates people to come, and experience these exhibits. The goal of this museum is to maintain their credibility, and the only way to do this is to have as many people come


and experience the museum as possible. These texts are subtle ways to imply its mission statement and to plant the idea in peoples heads that they can explore, and understand science.
The Creation Museums Website has many clearly recognizable slogans. Right

away on the homepage, the header text says, Welcome, and Prepare to Believe, (web). This is the main theme of the Creation Museums Website. It focuses on divine inspiration and belief. Throughout the site, the exhibits are called inspiring, at the end of the prepare your visit section, the last sentence is prepare to be amazed, prepare to be challenged, prepare to believe (creationmuseum.org). Animals and environments are frequently referred to as Gods Creation (creationmuseum.org). This shows that the Creation Museum is up front about their mission, and they want it to be known. They are stating throughout the website how all of their exhibits are based on belief and divine inspiration, and it should eventually be that way for visitors as well. They imply that a visit could possibly be life changing. They, however, do state their main method of proof on their site as well. It is all based on belief. Through the emphasis on easy to remember slogans and catchy phrases of texts, the Creation Museum desires all visitors on the site to come away with that. They are showing the world that this is their argument. People experience it in the museum, so the designers of the website made sure that this was the case for the website visitors as well.
Two very different museums with two very different mission statements, and both

are trying to achieve success through different strategies. It is a ght for credibility and recognition. Location can be a big factor, but the website is the place where curious visitors will most likely be the rst to go. Each website should be like a part of a museum


itself, so that visitors can see the experience they are getting into. Avery big factor on how a museum represents itself is popularity. The Field Museum can afford to be a little mysterious. They do not need to have a virtual tour of the museum, because the Field Museum has a good reputation, support and wealth. Not only do they have high-class exhibits, but they have top professionals working in the museum as well. They can encourage discovery by advertising more people to come. The Creation Museum cannot afford to be mysterious in this way. Their claim of creation is rather unpopular with many of the population, and if they stay in mystery, no one will take their claims seriously. The Creation Museum leaves much of their experience on their website. Due to the fact that the Creation Museum is fairly new, it will be interesting to see if their rhetorical strategies change as they become more established. One of the most extraordinary things about rhetoric is that it is usually always ongoing. Even if an exigence is completely removed, one will take its place, and the debate will begin all over again. Both museums will undoubtedly shift their website designs if a rhetorical situation or need arises. The Field Museum will adjust to maintain credibility, while the Creation Museum will adjust to continue its battle to promote its views.


Works Cited Bitzer, Lloyd F. Philosophy and Rhetoric. Vol. 1, No.1. Penn State University Press, 1968. Print. Herrick, James A. The History and Theory of Rhetoric. 2nd Edition. Alynd and Barm, 2001. Print Vie, Stephanie. Introduction: Your (E)dentity. (Edentity). Ed. Stephanie Vie. South Lake, Texas: Fountainhead Press, 2011. 1-4. Print. The Field Museum Website. The Field Museum, 2012. Web. 5 October, 2012. The Creation Museum Website. The Creation Museum, 2012. Web. 5 October 2012.