by: Paul Langdon
The Saint Louis Science Center’s new special exhibit Becoming Jane: The Evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall explores the life and work of one of the world’s most important living scientific pioneers. Through artifacts, animations, interactive areas, installations, and advanced projections, Dr. Jane Goodall shares the details of her personal journey and scientific discoveries with visitors.
“Rarely do we get to have a scientist of her caliber tell her own story. But in this exhibition, she’s talking directly to you about her life’s work. And in fact, there’s a hologram of Jane in here that will talk directly to your family as you visit,” says Neville Crenshaw, Special Exhibitions Manager at the Saint Louis Science Center. “You’ll get to see an expedition tent that’s a recreation of where her and her mother lived during their time in Gombe Stream as they were researching these animals. Then you will get to learn a lot about those behaviors that the chimpanzees have that Jane was able to put on the scientific record.”
While today it is common knowledge that chimps display a wide array of emotions, congregate in almost tribal ways, and are capable of devising and using tools, before Dr. Goodall’s work such observations had yet to be documented in a scientific way. Many scientists even considered toolmaking to be an ability exclusive to human beings. Her findings were considered so earthshattering that her mentor (who initially tasked her with researching chimpanzees), renown Paleoanthropologist Dr. Louis Leakey, famously said in response to her observations, “Now we must redefine ‘tool,’ redefine ‘man,’ or accept chimpanzees as humans.”
As visitors will discover through this exhibition, chimps and humans have a lot more in common than just using tools, such as their capacity for communication. There is an area where people can actually learn to vocalize like a chimpanzee by following prompts on a screen that will have a digitally rendered chimp respond appropriately if the sounds are accurate. “It’s important when you experience that part not to be shy,” says Crenshaw. “Really give it you all because that’s how the chimpanzees do it.”
This exhibit provides guests with a unique look at humankind’s closest living relatives, as well as the daring scientist that made these discoveries and paved the way for countless zoological breakthroughs. Becoming Jane: The Evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall will be on display until April of 2023. To learn more about this and all of the Saint Louis Science Center’s offerings, please visit www.slsc.org.