“Marsh Botanical Garden: Yale’s Hidden Jewel,” is, in fact, only a slideshow advertising the garden. I had expected touch screens, interactive displays, and some informational value. But the so-called “media exhibit” at the Center for Science and Social Science Information provided only a series of photos shown on nine screens pulled together into one larger rectangle. Woe to anyone who walks up Science Hill in the snow just to see it. Nevertheless, for those working hard at the CSSSI during the winter, it creates a pleasant ambience.
You won’t see anything special at this exhibit. Google “beautiful plants,” and you’ll find photos just as good as, if not better than, those on view. And although the photos are well shot, they sure don’t bring anything special to the subject. I confess that I’ve never been to the Marsh Botanical Garden, but I’m certain that seeing the plants in person would be a more engaging experience than watching them dance across a screen. (Both the exhibit and the garden itself offer free admission, and the trek to each is about equal.)
You won’t really learn much from the exhibit either. Yes, the photos are labeled; yes, I learned that Ylang Ylang is used to make Chanel No. 5 and that Yale offers some really hands-on environmental studies classes; but aside from that, the exhibit doesn’t offer much educational value.
There are some photos documenting the garden’s historical roots, but they don’t say much. A letter of correspondence between Darwin and O.C. Marsh is pretty cool, as are some slides showing Marsh’s other notable acquaintances: Chief Red Cloud, Thomas Huxley, Alfred Russell Wallace. It’s interesting that Marsh knew these people, but that’s all you learn from the slides.
Beyond this brief history, you’ll also learn how much fun some staff members have at the garden. In one slide, Curator of Greenhouse Plant Collection David Garinger holds a cat named Eli. How adorable. (Interesting note: In the bibliographic slide at the end of the slideshow, the botanical garden’s Wikipedia page is referenced as a source.)
However, I would be wrong to gripe about this exhibit just because it doesn’t deserve its spot on the Yale Arts Calendar. Even though most of the students working at the center didn’t seem to think much of the slideshow, I thought it was a pleasant addition to the study area. It wasn’t really calming, but the nature provided a nice counterpoint to the otherwise academic surroundings. I did notice one guy look at it for five seconds while waiting for his documents to print.
Although underwhelming, the slideshow was nice, and nice things can always fit into our lives.
But even after accepting the exhibit’s limitations, I still have one complaint. The screen in the center of the display has a thin line running through it, distracting viewers (if there are any) from the images flicking across the screen. Sometimes the line is red, sometimes it’s green, but whatever it is, it needs to be fixed. I can’t imagine that the Louvre staff would find it acceptable to have a green line drawn through all their paintings. Then again, as we’ve established, the CSSSI isn’t exactly the Louvre.
Kind of unfortunately, the exhibit closes soon or is closed already. The Yale Arts Calendar says it ends Friday, February 27, whereas the poster in CSSSI says it ends in March. In any case, the timing is interesting. Maybe it’s ending because we can visit the garden now that it’s spring. However, that would be a mistake on the part of the curators. The exhibit is not a wintertime replacement for the garden, and if it’s meant to be that, it’s a failure. The only thing the exhibit does is brighten the CSSSI.
But this is all just speculation. In the end, I don’t know why this exhibit is here — it remains an enigma. A nice enigma, though.