As an artist who spends a lot of time visiting and thinking about natural history museums, something I ponder often is the educational aspect of these institutions. It seems like museums of all types are turning away from the traditional and leaning more toward digital exhibits heavy on the interactive, family-friendly components. I love all the dated materials I can spot in Jon Riordan’s pictures in his series Dinosaurs in the Attic – faded photos, bright paint in primary colors, paper with fold marks and torn corners. Even a dry erase board can be seen as an object from the past. Riordan’s photos make me think about natural history museums’ enduring ability to fascinate and educate young minds, of past generations and those to come.

From the artist’s statement: As a child, museums had an almost magical hold over me. They were these cavernous places of mystery and wonder. They even had dinosaurs! And they looked so big and real. Everything that made a child’s mind race was there: sharks, snakes, lions and even hyenas, those fascinating skulking beasts. So, many years later, it was with great excitement [that] I took a job at a natural history museum in South Africa. Amazingly, as an adult I found an equally magical space. The animals might not look as real, the cracks in the façade are all the more visible to cynical adult eyes, but there is still magic in knowledge and the observable natural wonders housed in these places. So, in my spare time, I would venture around the museum with my camera and try and spot a different kind of magic through the cracks in this façade: the reality of these ancient spaces of learning, research and happy childhood exploration.

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