Archive for September, 2011

Museum Life: An Evening With Jane Goodall Live

September 28, 2011 1 comment


My mid-career walkabout continued tonight as I attended the nationwide simulcast of Jane’s Journey, a documentary of primatologist Jane Goodall written and directed by Lorenz Knauer. I went because her story of traveling to Tanzania in her twenties without a college degree to study chimpanzees under Dr. Louis Leakey has always inspired me. Likewise her writings and penchant for pithy quotes that I love so well, such as ” Lasting change is a series of compromises. And compromise is all right, as long your values don’t change.”



The event was part film screening, part this is your life, part Hollywood stars pay homage and part commercial for Jane’s current quest to inspire people to save the planet from damage humans cause. I thought the documentary was well done, particularly giving rare glimpses into her personal life including the often difficult effects of lifelong passion for work. As most driven people, she made sacrifices within romance, friendships and family. She spoke candidly about two marriages to “jealous” men who in her opinion kept her from doing the type of travel and work she does now.  After her second husband died from cancer in 1980, she sought solace in the wilderness for four weeks and chose to be married to her work from then on. Deeply resonating for someone like me.

A period of separation from her son and grandchildren due to philosophical differences regarding the environment and commerce was also explored. Her son pursued commercial fishing and export of live crabs to Japan, which did not sit well with mother. He expressed remorse over those “lost years” chasing profits. Yet today he and his mother are working on an ecotourism venture together to take people to a pond called sacred by locals in Tanzania. It is filled with hippos that have been guarded by generations of the same family. Jane suggest that “high-end” clientele who “respect” the area will actually help increase financial stability for the area and offer more protection for the animals. I am not yet sold on this aspect of the film. The balance of moneymaking and mission with regard to culture and preservation is a theme that causes me angst almost daily. Jane didn’t help me find new insights on this.

While I am the first to tout the benefits of  the marriage of pop culture and science to reach a broad audience, I didn’t feel seeing Courtney Cox, Angelina Jolie, Pierce Brosnan, Dave Matthews, Nancy Cartwright (voice of Bart Simpson) or Charlize Theron accomplished this very well tonight. Their segments seemed a bit disjointed and didn’t help the message as much as seeing a young reporter interview Jane about how young people can make a difference in the world. His unbridled enthusiasm for the topic spoke volumes for what young people can do.

While some scientists question her research methods, and there are criticisms of her focus on public appearances vs. hard science, Ms. Goodall still inspires me as she travels 300 days a year at age 77, making appearances and supporting projects at the Jane Goodall Institute. She does countless interviews, with her message of community action and education front and center, such as statements about women and science today in Huffington Post. The Roots and Shoots youth program, now in 100 counties, has me thinking of new ways museums might help organize and engage youth on a global scale.

Find Out More! Jane Goodall’s archives recently moved from University of Minnesota to Duke University, following Professor Anne Pusey, a long-time colleague. The Research Center has a wealth of information and educational activities for adults and kids alike.