Sunday, July 19, 2009

Science fiction fandom camp in Lithuania, part 2: Museum of Ethnocosmology

As I said in my previous post, the camp was near an observatory. Not long ago, a person who used to be the head of the observatory built a so-called Museum of Ethnocosmology here, also referred to by the folks as Flying Saucer because of the resemblance. We toured this museum. Ethnocosmology may be a valid field of study of creation myths from around the world, and I imagine there's more than one Ph.D. dissertation to be made in it. However, this museum did not present a case for it. Overall there's not much in it (maybe because it's still new). The halls were almost empty, except for an exhibit containing pieces of meteorites, some folk art with no apparent connection to astronomy or cosmology, and some pretty, generic space photos on the walls.

The dearth of real exhibits may be why the tour guide filled up the time with New Age'y blather. He announced he was going to have a conversation with us about the meaning of life. Because you know, none of us thought about it before coming here. Then he rehashed a bunch of cliches about how the ancients perceived time as cyclical, while modern people see it as linear, and how technology made us forget the meaning of life (something I profoundly disagree with). He did not neglect to mention that oriental people perceive the world differently -- with their heart, not the logical mind. In other words, he slung some old, tired, and mostly untrue cliches.

The tour got a bit more lively when the guide pulled several kids into acting out a live model of the solar system. Well, it was limited to the Sun and the first 4 planets, which he positioned in proportional distances from the child who played the Sun. Given the scale of the Solar system, it's not suprising that the room was too small to accomodate the outer planets. :-) After that he took us 12 floors up to an observation deck that revealed a view of the surrounding lakes (there are seven of them) and woods. Then we walked up another 2 floors to look at a telescope, which wasn't working yet. The guide proudly told us this was going to be the largest telescope in Europe for public use.

I'm not sure what kind of expo this museum will have when completed. But I certainly didn't like the vaguely anti-science attitude it promotes, all the more regrettable that it comes from an organization that has facilities and staff to carry Carl Sagan's work in Lithuania, if they so chose. Maybe it's just me; some people did not feel the anti-science attitude as sharply as I did. But everybody agreed that the tour was, at best, bland.

The Ethnocosmology museum looks really remarkable from outside, though:

Ethnocosmology museum

Pictures from the camp (with English and Lithuanian captions) are in m photo gallery.

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