Reliance on Science: delivering to the masses

My earliest memory of visiting a museum is lobbing plastic organs across the room at my sister – embracing ‘interactive learning’. Some may say it was a waste of my parent’s time taking me there, but that was the day I learned what the lungs, kidneys and stomach are.

Are science museums memorable? Do they present a gateway to a career in science?

Having listened to learning officers from Newcastle’s Great North Museum and the Discovery Museum, delivering science to the general public is more difficult that I first thought.
The main aim is to capture the attention of all age groups- bright colours and hands on exhibits for kids, whilst engaging the interest of adults alike, probably a more difficult task.

Science museums also have to provide a mixed bag of interest, as everyone is going to be fascinated by something different. I recently visited the National Science Museum in London, and after half an hour of slaloming steam engines and old cars I came across a small glass box whose contents went ignored by 90% of passers-by. To me, it was the most significant scientific artifact the whole museum had to offer- a piece of Watson and Crick’s double helix model.

If a museum can offer at least one exhibit that grips a visitor, I believe that they have succeeded in providing something for everyone.

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