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September 11, 2012


Paul Orselli

Looking forward to finding out more about the four major themes!

Michelle Moon

Can't wait to read more. I wonder if the reason that "meaning" for adults isn't as evident in science museums is partly because they have geared themselves so strongly toward the youth audience? The experience design is usually active, fast-paced, bold. When I think of science museums, I think of spaces that lend themselves not so much to reflection as to action and cause/effect observation. They are usually large, cavernous spaces with bright, sometimes noisy, exhibits and frequent pop-up programs.

Yet it is possible to imagine meaningful moments being drawn from science museums - resources like planetariums, exhibits on life and environment, seem like they certainly could prompt deep insights, if well framed.

One example: I went with my parents to the Pompeii exhibit which was touring science museums last year, and it was definitely having an emotional/philosophical impact on people, even as it taught the urban geography of pompeii, dealt with archeological topics, and touched on basics of vulcanology with a recounting of the events that buried the city. The narrative, human frame around the science contained in the story helped bring the information home in a way I'd call meaningful.

Patricia Dutra

Very interesting and useful research! I will be following closely the next postings. Reflecting on the research findings, I was intrigued with the low number of responses related to meaningful experiences in Science Museums. One of my memorable experiences in museums was a visit to the Natural History Museum in London, particularly to the Darwin permanent exhibit about The Origin of the Species. His theory as well as the display of bones of our ancestors made a powerful and lasting impression on me.

Even though science is so embedded in our lives today, it is easier to feel connected with other people emotions and perspectives through their artistic expression in Art Museums, or to relate to the story of a Historic Museum, than to identify ourselves with science. I think that for this reason, exhibitions like “A Day in Pompeii” and “Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science”, showed at the MOS and in other museums around the country, have been exploring the human connections behind the science involved. At the Lost Egypt, for example the visitor follows the mummification process of an unknown fourteen year old girl that after died in the Nile River, that was considered sacred, received the same treatment reserved for distinguished Egyptians. This tendency in Science Museums Exhibitions to underline the science description with a human narrative, maybe in a few years will lead to an improvement in the number of adult meaningful experiences in Science Museums.

Susie Wilkening, Reach Advisors

Thanks all of you for your comments! While we are in only a hypothesis-building phase for why meaning seems to be built more easily via art and history than via science, the hypotheses that Michelle and Patricia are throwing out are certainly similar to the ones we are discussing. More soon!


Very interesting site,thank you for this.Cheers! John.

Bryony Freeman

This is very interesting, I began researching into this for a project I am working on - I am studying visual communication illustration and my degree is very much based upon the feelings art work gives, the meaning behind it and creating this ourselves. I am planning on creating a visual memorial and want to make the piece a moving, capturing experience that would likely be exhibited in a museum for that kind of audience rather than an art gallery. But after reading all your posts I now want to change my dissertation topic to this! :)

Rebecca Prosino

This is Rebecca at Sci-Port in Shreveport. For the past two weeks we have had a visiting researcher on site from UT's developmental psychology department here surveying people who are exiting the traveling Titanic exhibition. She's researching magical contagion for her dissertation. You might be interested in her results! Contact me offline and I can put y'all in touch if you like. On another note, I think it is possible for iconic science center exhibits to develop the magic the longer they are here. Our visitors get upset when we move the Bed of Nails around, for example. It (and a couple others) seem to have some special juju (to use a Louisiana word).

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