#CorpseFlower Watch: Why It Was Worth It
And, inevitably, the question arises: was it worth it?
|E D Truitt|
|"Lois", in all her stanky glory|
Already, a sort of backlash has developed on the Web. Part of the backlash, predictably, is due to the appearance of internet trolls, that loathsome breed which infests the interactive regions of the Web, polluting blogs, news sites, and social media with their "inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages."
Another component of the backlash comes from those who felt the price was too high, the wait was too long, the value received wasn't there, they could have made the same exhibit with "a hibiscus and a dead rat". (BTW, ewwww.)
The third leg of the backlash comes from the "tin-foil hat brigade", those conspiracy
lovers theorists who feel that somehow the museum perpetrated upon everyone in a sort of fraud designed to enrich themselves at our expense. And, as a corollary, the media was either an unwitting dupe, or a willing accomplice, in this fraud.
|E D Truitt|
|Recording a historic event|
For the internet trolls, I have a simple response: Do Not Feed The Trolls. 'nuf said.
For the third group, those who feel that this was a great big conspiracy, I would recommend they cover their head in a double-thick layer of tin-foil, lest the government mind-ray machines attached to the red-light cameras take control of them and force them to run the red lights, thus adding to the city's coffers. 4REALZ.
|"Lois" with some of her adoring fans|
The last group, those who feel they somehow didn't get value for what they paid, I feel a less snarky, more thoughtful and reasoned response is required. While I may not be able to change their minds, at least I can give them something to think about.
Yes, there was a fee charged for admission. While at $8 (for adults) it seems a bit high, there
were are several mitigating factors. First, the fee is not only to see the flower, but also grants admission to the whole of the Cockrell Butterfly Center. While at 2AM there isn't that much to see, during the day the butterflies are out, and the whole thing makes for a nice family outing (unless you have a phobia about bugs.) Another mitigating factor: if you have a membership to the Museum, not only is the cost of admission cut to $4, but admission to the permanent exhibits (main exhibition hall) is free, which gives you something more to do while waiting for your turn to feel the funk. The last mitigating factor: for those who are into such things, the Houston Museum of Natural Science offers a special on FourSquare: when you "check in" to the HMNS for the first time, you can get a free admission to the Butterfly Center (this special paid for one of my visits to "Lois".)
As to whether or not the Museum had the "right" to "make a pile of $$$$MONEY$$$$$", I am somewhat conflicted. Having been involved with the Museum (as a volunteer docent working on a ham radio exhibit) when the Museum first instituted admission fees, I saw (and experienced for myself) the frustration that comes from losing "free" access. However, as privately owned (as opposed to taxpayer-funded) operations, our museums have to have a source of revenue, if they are to survive. And, admission fees are one source of revenue. This museum is one of the most-visited museums in the country not named "Smithsonian" (second, if I recall, behind the American Museum of Natural History), and to be honest it is stretching at the seams. Some of the money received will go toward the current expansion of the main facility, while part of it will go to pay the expenses needed to make this unique, rare plant available (keeping the lights and A/C on isn't cheap, nor are the salaries of the employees who had to work extra hours, in order to keep the doors open 24x7.)
As far as holding your own exhibit using "a dying flower and a baggie of rotten meat", well, if you can sell people on the concept... (Again, ewwww.)
Now, as to why I think the whole thing was worth it (and why I was willing to plop down $4 and a bit of time in support of the effort). Right now, the Houston area needed a bit of a pick-me-up, with problems in both the oil patch and NASA, combined with lingering after-effects of Hurricane Ike. Hosting the second Amorphophallus titanum ever to bloom in the state of Texas certainly helped provide some positive publicity for the city, including exposure on national news shows. However, the big "bump" I think came from the engagement of people: from the involvement of Rice University in upgrading the live webcam feed, to the interactive conversation between the museum and the public via Twitter, to the creation of an alter ego, the folks of H-Town took this flower and made it our own. And, while it isn't unusual to take an interest in "beautiful" flowers (one need only look at the garden clubs, the orchid societies, and the big tulip exposition at Keukenhof), it is refreshing to see folks rally around such an "ugly ducking" (seriously, folks, this flower is not beautiful in the classic sense, and it really does smell like dead feet.) This willingness to embrace the odd, the quirky, the not-really-perfect, and make it one of us, to me is one of the endearing elements of this city. And to see this characteristic exhibited gives me hope that the spirit of Houston is not dead, that we are not simply another wannabe "world-class" city; we are in a class unto ourselves.
As far as the value to me: along with the ongoing set of Flickr meetups, the willingness of the Museum to reach out to, and engage, the community has caused me to re-think my willingness (and ability) to get involved. I am not sure where the Museum can use my talents, but I will certainly be exploring this with them in the days to come. I would encourage others to join me in this endeavor: if not with this Museum, then pick a museum (or other non-profit) that is a good fit for you, and get involved.
Maybe that is "Lois"'s legacy: a new face to the #WeSLGT movement. It would be a fitting legacy for her, indeed.
Photographs copyright © 2010 E D Truitt.
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Lois and the museum have made the month of July so much fun. I don't think the museum was out to get people. When they set Lois out in the Butterfly Center they really thought she was going to bloom within days. The fact that it took much longer than that is not their fault and certainly not part of some grand scheme hatched in the basement of the museum.
Recently (06/13/10) laanba wrote About Photine. Check it out!
I know my "whopping $8.00" will be more than worth it to see something that doesn't happen that often and only for the 2nd time in Texas! The museum deserves every dime they've collected. It's not free to keep the museum open 24/7. Truly, is $8 so much to see something so rare? And for those who think the whole Lois saga was a ploy by HMNS, puh-leeeeeze. It's not HMNS, it's "Mother Nature" and she has her own clock and her own timeline for all things. :)
I wasn't too thrilled with the whole tweet thing myself, since I haven't 'crossed over' to twitterdom yet, but now I must admit, it's nice to read what others thought of their visit(s). It also made me smile to see how so many different people have gotten on the Lois train.
Thank you again. I can't wait to see her tonight. Even if the smell has waned! ;)
Yes, the media has been there, waiting and waiting and it has been good business for media and museum alike. There are many other stories (ugly) stories covered that I can really stop, but for Lois...c'mon! It's not like a bloom like this occurs all the time, so for the HMNS folk to not get it right on is not unrealistic. I think the wait made it the more spectacular and I would have not been happy if I had heard about it the day of.
On a side note, our HMNS membership expires 7/31/10 and was considering dropping it. Knowing all they do and how much our $ helps expand the programs has made me change my mind.
Thumbs up to all!
Lois and Me
Recently (07/24/10) PJ Holliday wrote Lois and Me. Check it out!
On the bright side: a whole lotta folks enjoyed seeing Lois (also Zac and RedShirtGuy), and Bonnie did us all a favor and stayed away!
Hope you're enjoying your time back East, we'll be sure and save some heat & humidity for your return! :-)
laanba - It's also interesting to see how many pics of Lois are showing up in "Assignment: Houston" this month! (Including from me!)
mossrose - "horticulture history" - love it!
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