Feature: On tour with Darwin's ideas
Marking the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth and 150th anniversary of ‘On the Origin of Species’.
The Research Councils worked together on an exhibition that toured the UK throughout 2009 to show how Darwin’s ideas still influence contemporary research – from bioscience to robotics, economics, language and business practices. Professor Alan Thorpe, who leads on public engagement for Research Councils UK (RCUK), describes the project.
The aim of ‘Darwin Today’ was to bring Darwin out of the history books and to illustrate how the theory of natural selection affects many aspects of our daily lives. Rather than presenting separate aspects individually, the Research Councils worked together to show the pervasiveness of Darwin’s ideas across diverse areas of research and study.
We were particularly keen to reach people across the UK, beyond ‘the usual circuit’. Over the year, ‘Darwin Today’ was presented at 34 sites from the Isles of Scilly to Orkney, and from Belfast to Norwich. It is estimated that at least half a million people have had access to the exhibition over the year. Venues included: civic centres, a school, libraries, science centres, a cathedral and museums; with the exhibition typically staying for between 2 and 4 weeks.
Aimed at ‘all-ages’, ‘Darwin Today’ included posters, puzzles and games, including a computer game that challenged players to overcome selection pressures as a plant and pass on their genes to a next generation. It also provided a backdrop for informal talks, discussion meetings and other activities. These included a discussion evening on Darwin’s ideas and creationism at ‘Search’ in Gosport, an ‘insect safari’ and Darwin talk in the Isles of Scilly, and school visits at the Forum, Norwich.
Darwin Today was led by BBSRC for RCUK. Further details about a small spin-off exhibit on plant and crop evolution and online resources from ‘Darwin Today’ are available from www.bbsrc.ac.uk/events
RCUK is very grateful to all those who hosted the exhibition during the year.
Darwin Today images
Click on the thumbnails to view and download full-size images.
These images are protected by copyright law and may be used with acknowledgement.
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