Date of Award

May 2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Benjamin C. Campbell

Committee Members

Andrew J. Petto, William W. Wood, Bernard C. Perley, Gregory C. Mayer

Keywords

Creationism, Human Evolution, Museums, Science Education

Abstract

Since the mid-twentieth century there has been increasing concern among evangelical Christians over the depiction of human origins in American education. For young-Earth creationists, it has been a priority to replace scientific information which contradicts the six-day origin story reported in Genesis 1 with evidence they claim scientifically reinforces their narrative. As this has failed in public education, creationists have switched tactics, moving from “teach creationism” to “teach the controversy”. The struggle over evolution education in the classroom is well-documented, but less attention has been paid to how young-Earth creationists push their agenda in informal educational venues such as museums. Given the authoritative nature of museums and the ubiquity of these institutions in American life, museums have become targets for the creation message. This project was undertaken to critically analyze the use of the museum form as an authoritative source which facilitates the cultural reproduction of young-Earth creationism. I propose a tripartite model of authority and museums is the best way to understand the relationship between young-Earth creationism and American museums, with the creation, contestation, and subversion of authority all acting as critical components of the bid for cultural reproduction. Assessing the utility of this model requires visiting both creation museums alongside mainstream natural history, science, and anthropology museums. Drawing from staff interviews, survey data, museum visits, and the collection of creation-based literature for secular museums, these sources combine to create a comprehensive picture of the relationship between young-Earth creationism and museums in the United States today.