Perot Museum Exhibit Illuminates Jane Goodall’s Personal Journey, Mission – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
When world-renowned ecologist and ethologist Dr. Jane Goodall first saw “Becoming Jane: The Evolution of Dr. Jane Goodall,” it was a surreal experience.
“It was very, very strange to go through my life,” Goodall said.
The traveling exhibit, organized by the National Geographic Society and the Jane Goodall Institute, is on view at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science through September 5. It’s an exploration of how an animal-curious little girl became a science pioneer who changed the world. .
“‘Becoming Jane,'” said Dr. Linda Silver, the museum’s chief executive, Eugene McDermott, “presents the extraordinary power of a childhood dream that, when properly nurtured, grew to change and inspire the world.”
Speaking to pupils at Hamilton Park Pacesetter Magnet Elementary School via Zoom from her home in England, the 88-year-old scientist spoke about the exhibit and answered pupils’ questions. The exhibit is designed to inspire children, featuring Goodall as a curious English child.
The exhibit describes Jane’s first observation of the animal world at the age of five: watching a hen lay an egg. Visitors can listen to a recording of Goodall’s late mother describing the event. Hearing his mother’s voice two decades after her death touched Goodall.
“It really sent shivers down my spine hearing his voice like that. I didn’t expect that,” Goodall said.
Goodall’s favorite toys are included in the exhibit. Goodall’s treasured house doll, Lucy, offers a glimpse into Goodall’s life during World War II. Jubilee, a toy chimpanzee, remains one of Goodall’s most prized possessions, even though the fur has been completely wiped off after 86 years. Goodall hesitated to allow Jubilee to appear in the exhibit.
“So when you see it, you’ll see it in a bulletproof glass case,” Goodall said.
While Jubilee was important to the little girl, it was her childhood books about Tarzan and Doctor Dolittle that inspired her to go to Africa and study animals.
“You can see these books that changed my life, so this is a very special exhibit for me,” Goodall said.
The exhibit explains how Goodall eventually made it to Africa after meeting an important mentor, Dr. Louis Leaky, a paleoanthropologist who hired Goodall as his secretary. He chose Goodall to study chimpanzees in the Gombe Stream Chimpanzee Reserve in Tanzania. She arrived in 1960, accompanied by her mother.
The exhibit features a recreation of the tent Goodall shared with his mother.
“It was a little harder than you think when you see the exhibit,” Goodall said.
Goodall recalled that the tent was smaller than the one shown in the exhibit and had few crates. This is where mother and daughter ate and slept, where Goodall discussed her observations with her mother, and where she took extensive notes describing the tools and personalities of the chimpanzees.
After observing chimpanzees for two years, she returned to school to earn a doctorate. His teachers and other scientists criticized his notes identifying chimpanzees by name rather than number and describing their emotional lives.
“Why? Because only humans have these things,” Goodall said. “Well, I had already learned from my dog that that wasn’t true. And of course chimpanzees made it even more so because they look so much like us.”
Goodall’s unconventional methods and observations of chimpanzees revolutionized the way humans understand the animal world.
“Animals have feelings,” Goodall said. “Animals can feel fear. Animals can feel pain. Animals can feel happy and sad.”
Besides sharing 98% of DNA with humans, chimpanzees have something else in common with mankind. Chimpanzees can adapt to survive based on their environment and teach these skills to their offspring.
“We’re not the only creatures with a culture,” Goodall said. “Culture is something you learn from others and pass on to the next generation and that’s what makes a culture.”
Visitors can try talking like a chimpanzee and see how a chimpanzee’s family tree grew just as Goodall’s family grew after her marriage to Hugo Van Lawick, a photographer the National Geographic Society has sent to photograph Jane’s work, and the birth of their son in 1967.
The exhibit chronicles Goodall’s extensive conservation efforts and explains the threats to wildlife and their habitats. Goodall hopes the next generation will hear her call to action to help all animals.
“They all need heroes,” Goodall said.
Learn more: Perot Nature and Science Museum