What Kind of Museum Is This, Anyway?

DinosaurThe centerpiece of our vacation this year was a visit to the newly opened Creation Museum in Northern Kentucky. As I have noted before, I am an agnostic on origins, being neither a six day creationist nor an evolutionist of any ilk. I am not presently a creationist of the six-day fraternity and am therefore an inconsistent Christian in the opinion of Creation Museum founder, Ken Ham. However, I would not be overly upset to be proven wrong once the New Age is fully implemented. So my approach to this review of the Creation Museum is probably unique, as I truly have no ax to grind.

Once I pulled up into the Museum lot, I was admittedly impressed. The 37 acre property is well manicured and invites the user to stroll through the grounds (as if he really had time!). The 60,000 square foot building is large enough to show that the reported $27 million construction cost was not exaggerated. At least in terms of production and facilities, this is not going to be another cheesy Evangelical display. (In terms of content, the films still bounded back to Veggie Tale cheesiness, but that will be another post).

Most reviewers claim that the Creation Museum is not really a museum at all. Gene Kritsky, an evolutionary biologist, as well as the guys behind the Relevant Podcast call the Creation Museum not a museum at all but mere a “bait and switch.” Not surprisingly, Daniel Phelps of the National Center for Science Education calls it an “Anti-Museum.” Even on my first pass through the museum, I was a bit disappointed until a realized that this was not a Creation Science Museum, but a Creation Museum. There is a world of difference between the two. They should not be confused.

First of all, is the Creation Museum properly classified as a museum? Webster defines “museum” as follows:

An institution devoted to the procurement, care, and display of objects of lasting interest or value; also : a place where objects are exhibited.

Not very specific. The Creation Museum certainly is “a place where objects are exhibited” but so is the mantle over my mother’s fireplace. On that level, it is a museum; the question is therefore, just what kind of museum is it. That is, of course, dependent on the nature of the objects it primarily displays.

As I noted, to my not long disappointment, the Creation Museum is not a science museum. A science museum has extensive displays of artifacts and presentation of artifacts that bolster current theories or declarations of science. It also will have rather detailed explanations of those theories as well as interactive exhibits to help people learn those theories. The Creation Museum has none of these. It does have some displays that touch of aspects of current Creation Science explanations of geological strata and the fossils they contain. But these explanations are not extensive to any degree and take up a very small percentage of the displays.

For example, a single plaque notes that there are some issue with the dating of rocks found in the earth. The display noted that former assumptions about the rocks being billions of years old are now being revised to make the rocks younger than was currently presumed. No references were given or further details offered. (And I seriously doubt that even if the scientists are doubting the “billions of years” aging of the rocks, none were moving to the 6,000 year span demanded in the rest of the museum.)

Nor is the Creation Museum a museum on the order of an art Museum. It does not pull in collections of displays on various aspects of Creation from various ages, authors, or artists from the past or from across the globe. It pretty much is the images as drawn from the mind of one man: Ken Ham.

It is not a natural history museum. Although, as I noted previously, there are some fossils and other recreation of fossils in parts of the museum, these by no means make up the majority of the exhibits. Often explanations of these artifacts, if they exist at all, are pretty short and shallow.

It certainly is not a museum in the same sense as a history museum. History museums have clothing and other items from the times in which the museum specializes. It is simply not possible to do so. No such items are available for the period of Genesis 1-11. Christians have not claimed they have on display slivers of the ark or the rock that killed Abel since the Middle Ages.

No, this is not a Creation Science Museum (as most reviewers seem to think it is), nor is it a Creation Natural Science Museum. This is, as stated in the title, a Creation Museum. As such, it is a museum based on the Creation story of Genesis, period. The nature of the exhibits can be gleaned from the museum’s own website:

The Creation Museum presents a “walk through history.” Designed by a former Universal Studios exhibit director, this state-of-the-art 60,000 square foot museum brings the pages of the Bible to life.
A fully engaging, sensory experience for guests. Murals and realistic scenery, computer-generated visual effects, over fifty exotic animals, life-sized people and dinosaur animatronics, and a special-effects theater complete with misty sea breezes and rumbling seats. These are just some of the impressive exhibits that everyone in your family will enjoy.

The Creation Museum concentrates on creating a “walk through history” using ” Murals and realistic scenery, computer-generated visual effects, over fifty exotic animals, life-sized people and dinosaur animatronics.” In other words, the Creation Museum is a full fledged museum in the same way that a wax museum is a full fledge museum. The only difference is that the Creation Museum uses sophisticated robots and full sized displays of the events of Genesis to make its impact instead of wax. But if a wax museum can be called a museum, then so can the Creation Museum.

And if a wax museum is not a “museum” then take it up with Madame Tussaud and not me…or Ken Ham.

On that level, the Creation Museum is a vast success. Once I was able to switch categories of museums in my mind, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, as did the rest of my family. I marveled at the full sized dinosaurs; I loved the garden of Eden displays; the animatronics inside the ark construction area were fun (included the Lance Armstrong wristband that someone managed to put on Noah); the other displays were interesting and inspiring. I liked it as much and probably more than any other Biblical “wax” museum or Biblical museum of any other type I have seen. I was well worth the time and money.

For families on a budget, I thought the $20 per person admission price was fair. There really is at least a day and a half of things to see if you want to read and examine the displays with any leisure. (I paid almost as much—$16.75—a person to see a Pirates display at the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History; it only took an hour and a half to see the entire exhibit!) The food prices were also very reasonable, not the gouge level I have come to expect in such institutions. As an added bonus, you are entirely free to take all of the photographs you desire. You are not forbidden to use your camera and then forced to buy a book of photographs at the gift store later if you want a record of the displays. That practice is standard is almost every other museum I have attended.

Hey, maybe that lack of avarice on the part of Ken Ham means this really is not a museum after all.

One Response to “What Kind of Museum Is This, Anyway?”

  1. Ron Jeremy Says:

    If you notice, the name “Anti-Museum” was originally used by one of Ken Ham’s followers on the Answers in Genesis website. Daniel Phelps merely repeated this name in his review of the museum.

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