As the driv­ing force be­hind

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION -

the de­vel­op­ment of the IMAX theater at the Na­tional Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory start­ing in 1984, I later wrote jus­ti­fi­ca­tions to the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tu­tion’s Board of Re­gents that also made their way to Congress. Pri­mary among our vi­sions was to show films of nat­u­ral his­tory and cul­tural in­ter­est from around the world. We also wanted to pro­duce our own films and pro­mote them world­wide as part of the Smith­so­nian’s ed­u­ca­tional mis­sion. Our “Gala­pa­gos” sig­na­ture film was shown in 77 coun­tries, I be­lieve, surely a good pro­mo­tion of the mu­seum and its sci­en­tists as well as its values.

Rather than de­mol­ish the theater, con­sider its po­ten­tial to be among the very best pub­lic re­la­tions ve­hi­cles for the mu­seum. If the theater were full be­cause peo­ple were charged three or four bucks a head, all the bet­ter. Most fam­i­lies can’t af­ford the cur­rent rates, hence the low at­ten­dance. At lower rates, imag­ine 500 peo­ple an hour march­ing out of the theater with smiles on their faces, feel­ing grate­ful to the Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum and thank­ful for their learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, and mak­ing them want to re­turn. Larry O’Reilly, Ar­ling­ton The writer is a for­mer as­sis­tant di­rec­tor for ex­hibits and pub­lic spa­ces at the Smith­so­nian Na­tional Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory.

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