Interrupting learning with typos at the San Diego Air & Space Museum

As a communications professional and a linguist, I have a sharp, intolerant eye for spelling errors, poor grammar and awkward syntax. When I notice them, I can’t help but be annoyed. I believe most typos are avoidable and a not-so-subtle sign of illiteracy. As people get to write more and more in abbreviated form (LOL, u r l8, TMI) they seem to lose their grip on the English language. And not just its intricacies, but also its basic spelling and grammar rules.

I can’t stand the confusion between the “possessive s” and “plural s”. How can someone think “I love my kid’s” makes any sense? Yet, I see this misuse over and over. And don’t let me start with the hard-to-believe confusion between you’re and your, it’s and its…

I tend to opt for leniency towards small business owners and youngsters in training. But I draw the line at public signs (not “pubic”, another common yet atrocious typo) aimed at large audiences. So when I noticed these typos in a museum last week, I was not only surprised. I was shocked.

Typos at the San Diego Air & Space Museum

Typos at the San Diego Air & Space Museum

In case you’re having a hard time spotting them on my not-so-sharp photo, I’m talking about “Sahara Dessert” and “Escape Vellocity“. Here my child, have a mouthful of sand for dessert!

These typos appear on an activity screen at the brand new SPACE exhibit inside the San Diego Air & Space Museum. I thought I’d do the public institution a favor and share my findings through an email message, since they obviously didn’t notice the typos themselves. Their response was prompt, but quite disappointing. Here’s what the museum curator had to say:

“You are correct noting the misspellings that you did. Unfortunately we cannot fix them because they are permanently imprinted on the touch sensitive screen as supplied to us by the manufacturer.”

Say what??? Have you ever heard of a computer program that can’t be updated? Neither have I. So I sent the curator a kind but firm reply, asserting that these typos can be fixed, possibly with a little effort. As a public institution and a place of learning attracting thousands of visitors every month including many, many children, the museum should display higher standards of literacy and aim for accuracy and perfection. In my opinion, these typos affect the entire credibility of this specific activity. What makes me think the rest of the data on the screen is true and not completely made up?

It’s been four days and I’ve received no additional response. Apparently silence is golden and ignorance is bliss at the San Diego Air & Space Museum. So I’ve decided to shame the museum expose the museum’s poor practices share my “embarrassing typo moment” with you. There’s no doubt the same museum in Los Angeles, New York or Washington D.C. would get these errors fixed immediately (would they ever have occurred in the first place over there?). Too bad we can’t expect our lazy San Diego museum to get it fixed and get it right. Yes, this is a clear example of laziness, nothing else. There’s a reason we call it “taking the easy way out.”

Have you ever told a business or institution about blatant typos? What kind of reaction did you get?

Disclaimer: This post may contain typos, grammar and syntax errors. The author tried her best, but s***t mistakes happen. This post is electronic and can be fixed, so please forward all typo comments for prompt correction.

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8 responses to “Interrupting learning with typos at the San Diego Air & Space Museum

  1. You’ve shamed them well!

    Have you ever found mistakes in books? I have – incredible!!!!

  2. Oh my….ridiculous!
    I have also found typos in quite a few public places where I am shocked that they would let it slide….BUT I have yet to bring it up to anyone yet. Maybe I should….

    • Most of the time, I notice and I say nothing, not to embarrass people. But when I see them in a museum exhibit, I think that’s the line to draw. It obviously didn’t matter since they won’t fix them. Idiots.

  3. I see them all over as well. I always think, wow, they had so many people in different departments, how did no one catch it? But for a museum to let it slide is very sad indeed. Right, of course all computer programs are final, no tweaking or updating ever. Idiotic.

  4. Keep on asking your questions… I hope they didn’t waste huge amounts of public money on a programme that has spelling errors there-in.

    • The curator never responded to my second email, explaining the typos were worth the effort to fix. If I were him, I’d contact the vendor and say the program is defective and needs to be fixed. It’s really not that complicated!

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