Lives of Museum Junkies: The Story of America’s Hands-On Education Movement
Beginning in 1972 with her founding of Impression 5, an interactive science museum in Lansing, Michigan, Marilynne Eichinger’s Lives of Museum Junkies is a first-hand account of not only the growing popularity of interactive science museums but also the social and political contexts that made them possible, even necessary. Having served long, successful tenures at the helm of both Impression 5 and later the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Mrs. Eichinger spent much of her career at the forefront of interactive science education, and her book presents a casually authoritative history of the field.
Written in a first-person point of view, Mrs. Eichinger immediately establishes a conversational tone with her audience. She directly addresses the reader to provide tips and tricks for success in the museum business, and her prose is often loose and tangential, describing her daily meditations and briefly mentioning Jimi Hendrix’s suicide. This casual style is welcome for much of the book, although it does occasionally undermine her point. For example, while discussing gender roles in the workplace, Mrs. Eichinger writes, “Years ago, I read a study about women who rise to the top. I have since lost the source, but remember that some of the findings were quite unexpected.” Similar topics, such as the state of science education in America today, would benefit from a more rigorous approach than is offered here.
But these weaknesses are mostly confined to the periphery. What the book does so effectively is not only discuss the appeal and behind-the-scenes activity of interactive science museums but also place them in a larger political and educational context. The best passages of the book focus on the relationship between interactive learning and a more traditional public school education. What Mrs. Eichinger suggests is that these two educational systems can compliment each other, with interactive learning picking up where underfunded and overburdened public schools fall short. Here, Mrs. Eichinger is able to draw from her wealth of experience, and it’s in these passages that her informal, anecdotal style works best, relating personal insights that engage the reader in much the same way she’s been delighting museum goers for decades.
|Page Count||396 pages|
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