Earlier today I made the dangerous and long trek across Exposition Boulevard to visit the California Museum of Science. Having grown up near San Jose and San Francisco, California, I like to think of myself as a science museum regular since my family and I were members at the San Jose Tech Museum and the Exploratorium in San Francisco For those of you that are unfamiliar, they are both wonderfully put together science museums full of fantastic forum exhibits to engage the minds and imaginations of their visitors. Needless to say, I had a high standard and high expectations as I visited today, especially afterhaving seen the Endeavor Space Shuttle fly over my high school a year or so ago.
I was impressed. The gardens outside were breath-taking and the building looked magnificent in the background. I was surprised at how small the interior of the museum actually was. Regardless, it was a still a very well put together museum that utilized both the temple and forum techniques to share information with us. Upon entering, you can see a few large-scale aircraft hanging from the tall ceilings in a very well-lit environment. After taking the escalators up a floor, you can see the all the exhibits; they ranged from Air and Space, to Biological Sciences, to Ecosystems. I focused mainly on the Space exhibit.
This exhibit did not have the same grand entrance that the others seemed to have, it was more just off to the side, regardless they still did a great job at presenting the information in a fascinating manner. To set the mood of the exhibit, the blocked the sun roof and windows in the area to emulate the darkness of space. There was an extensive collection of meteorites and small-scale satellites and nose cones that had been previously launched into space. This portion of the exhibit was presented to the visitors by a large number of colorful signs that explained all the different types of meteorites and the different function/specialties of the satellites.
The museum took an interesting approach to fully explain the purpose of the satellites as they began the exhibit with information on the visible light spectrum. However, they didn’t stop there and they used a hands on experience to demonstrate the high energy, wave-like properties of light with a spring attached to an oscillating handle. They also had other hands on exhibit to demonstrate how light behaves when it is directed into certain materials sun as diffraction gratings, prisms, and mirrors. This helped explain how satellites are engineered to manipulate the light in space to create beautiful photos and to analyze the light from distant planets.
The exhibit also gave a basic explanation of how stars are created and how they inevitably die. Since this is all very complicated and detailed, the museum chose to convey this information through a looping television presentation. This was a smart decision since this highly complex information would be too confusing for most people to understand by simply reading words on a poster; this is a prime example of how the museums can utilize technological resources to fully engage with its visitors and to help convey complicated information.
The final part was a self paced discovery exhibit that examined the search for other life forms in space. Visitors used a large touch screen to explore accounts of people’s interactions with aliens and scientists views on the possibility of other life forms in the universe. Since there are numerous accounts and opinions, it would have been difficult for the museum to print and present them in an engaging manner so the choice the use technology here was excellent.
The Science museum did a wonderful job at not only presenting information, but making an effort to engage with their visitors and help them understand by using multiple learning platforms. Next time I plan on finally seeing the Endeavor up close.