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Cablegate: Moscow's Science Museums: Experimenting with Success

VZCZCXRO6784
RR RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPB RUEHPOD
DE RUEHMO #3732/01 2121113
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 311113Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2504
INFO RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC
RUEHZN/EST COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 003732

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/RUS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SCUL SENV TPHY TBIO RS
SUBJECT: MOSCOW'S SCIENCE MUSEUMS: EXPERIMENTING WITH SUCCESS


1. SUMMARY: As Moscow increasingly becomes a tourist destination,
science museums could play a role as second tier destinations, but
funding and attracting visitors remain a challenge. END SUMMARY.

2. Embassy EST intern recently visited many of Moscow's science
museums.

This Way to the Dinosaurs: Orlov Museum of Paleontology
--------------------------------------------- ----------

3. The Paleontology museum boasts the world's largest collection of
Permian fossils which date from about 250-300 million years ago.
Impressive in its size, the Paleontology museum is tucked away in
the outer edges of Moscow. The design of the building is friendly,
expansive, and striking. High ceilings echo the effect of giant
skeletons of bygone animals. Bas-relief tile frescoes adorn the
walls and ceiling providing patrons a glimpse of the animals in
their full form.

4. The deputy director spoke with us at length concerning the
museum's future. According to his records, approximately 100,000
visitors tour the institution per year. Every year the staff
changes and reshapes some exhibits. The museum has staged traveling
exhibits to the United States, Puerto Rico, Japan, Europe,
Australia, and elsewhere. The museum is funded primarily (90%)
through the Russian Academy of Sciences. The city of Moscow pays an
additional 10% for utilities and other operating expenses. Ticket
sales also contribute to the museum budget. Drawing on kids'
interest in dinosaurs and fossils, the museum sponsors lecture
events, a Kids' Paleontology Table, excavation exercises, and art
contests. The number of visitors has increased over the past few
years. Many children visit the museum either with their parents or
on a school field trip.

Factories, Planes and Inventions: Polytechnical Museum
--------------------------------------------- ---------

5. The Moscow Polytechnical Museum gives visitors the opportunity
to explore a variety of different scientific areas including space,
photography, mining, flight, chemistry, electronics, robotics, and
meteorology. Built in 1877, the building is an outstanding example
of Russian Revival architecture. Scale models of factories,
aircraft, and inventions adorn the museum's many rooms. The
original basket of the air-balloon used by Mendeleyev (organizer of
the modern Periodic Table of the Elements) is on display in the
museum. The first nuclear bomb is represented. Important
industries within Russia are also showcased including steel
production, chemical enterprises, and hydroelectric power plants. A
short summary of each item, in both Russian and English, is placed
next to each exhibit. Exhibits range from alternative energy
resources to space food.

Eco-Consciousness at Timiryazev State Museum of Biology
--------------------------------------------- ----------

6. Nestled in a quaint section of town near the U.S. Embassy, the
State Museum of Biology showcases nature, experimentation, and
development. During the summer of 2007, the museum is focusing on
the benefits of recycling. For this exhibit, the museum partnered
with the ecological program sponsored by the government of Moscow,
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Cornell
University. On display are costumes that students have created from
ordinary trash. Informational material posted on the wall provides
the decomposition times of particular items and landfill usage
across the world. Taxidermy animals are prominently displayed
throughout the museum. Models of mushroom varieties provide a
glimpse into the traditional Russian pastime of mushroom hunting. A
disturbing but historically interesting exhibit includes details of
the experiments done by Dr. Ivan Pavlov, the world-famous Nobel
laureate and physiologist, on dogs. While the museum lacks the
interactive feel of those in the United States, an area devoted to
human development features a painted ceiling reminiscent of a
prehistoric cave painting. Most of the museum's visitors are
children on school outings.

The Gems of the Moscow State University Geology Museum
--------------------------------------------- ---------

7. Moscow State University, located on the Vorobyov Hills,
maintains its own collection of geological phenomena, which provide
students unique opportunities to examine and complete research. An
impressive display covering five floors of the immense university
includes samples from around the world. Boasting a large collection
of soils from various terrains, the geology museum contributes
toward a better understanding of environmental climate change, as
many of the soil samples were taken decades ago. Rocks, ores,
gemstones, and minerals from around the world sparkle in display
cases. Depictions of geological activity explain volcanic activity,
meteor impacts, and deep sea beds. Students studying geology and
geography often attend lectures in a special auditorium within the

MOSCOW 00003732 002 OF 002


museum. The museum is not open to the public unless special
arrangements are made. All university students may enter the museum
free of charge with their student identification card.

Is it All Happening at the Moscow City Zoo?
-------------------------------------------

8. Although not up to the standards of Western zoos, the Moscow
City Zoo is wildly popular among Muscovite families with young
children. A large pond with swans, ducks, and other aquatic fowl is
in the center of each of the zoo's two sections, while pens with
land animals surround these ponds. Compared with American zoos, the
pens are smaller and less natural looking, though each animal's
habitat appears sufficient. While guidebooks and expats warn that
the zoo is shabby by Western standards, gradual improvements are
being made. A special section for young children contains pens with
farm animals, a playground, and a few small amusement park rides. A
new "exoterium" building houses exotic reptiles, fish and insects,
and can be entered for an additional fee on top of the general zoo
admission.

9. COMMENT: Moscow's scientific treasures are not as well known to
tourists as the city's historical and art collections. Colorful and
interactive displays to entertain and educate children have not yet
penetrated the dour museum atmosphere. For Westerners accustomed to
lights, sounds, and hands-on museum experiences, the quiet
atmosphere of Moscow's science museums could feel subdued and
old-fashioned. Despite their potential, these museums will likely
remain underappreciated until they upgrade their displays and adopt
coherent marketing strategies.

RUSSELL

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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