2008-10-06

Oslo Teknisk Museum - Part 1

Yesterday, I visited the Norsk Teknisk Museum - a a science center not unlike like the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa - with a combination of interactive science and technology exhibits, child-oriented exhibits, along with more historical exhibits on the history of industry in Norway.

I'm going to break this visit up into 2 or more posts, as I took quite a few pictures, and would like to capture a few different directions of thoughts and observations. I actually made this trip to the museum with a few members of the master's class that I'm working with. It was nice to have people to interact and discuss our impressions with. I'll start with the exhibit that most impressed me. This was an exhibit called Klima X (about climate change around the world). It was very very cool.

You enter the outside of the exhibit space, and it's not unlike a bowling alley. There is a giant shelf of yellow rubber boots. You take your shoes off, place them in a cubby and put on some boots. At this point, I didn't know what to expect. [Click on all the pictures for larger versions]



You round a corner and walk down a dark ramp, and the water level on the floor rises to just over ankle depth. You're now in the exhibit.


The entire exhibit is flooded, and there's a lot going on. Around the walls of the space are texts and projections revealing the impact of climate change around the world. There is a large chunk of ice melting on a platform. Rain occasionally falls over in one corner. Visitors are driving remote controlled boats around the exhibit as well. Below, you can see that "parking" a boat inside some of the columns gets video to play.

There are interactive components in the space as well. Polling questions are projected onto a wall, and visitors vote by placing their right or left foot onto a pedestal (below). The results of that round of voting, along with the average results from the history of the exhibition are displayed as well.

A greeter by the entryway hands out the boats and remote controls. These are two of my project partners.


A few observations and comments on the exhibit...

First of all, the boats were really popular. Several times I was amused to have a kid steer his boat into my legs, and I think this playfulness enhanced the atmosphere for the kids as well as the crash victims.

Talking with the staff person we learned that 'many children don't get it' - that the boats occupy their attention at the expense of the larger themes of the exhibit. When I asked what they 'don't get,' I realized that perhaps I was missing something as well. Apparently the boats are supposed to let children "travel around the world" inside the space and see the implications of climate change in these different environments - a concept i really like. But why would this aspect of the exhibit be unsuccessful? (at least according to the staff person). Using technology elements to connect exhibits together is something I've explored before (see my master's thesis project), and I'll continue to think about this issue in the context of mobile phones.

Also, in retrospect, other than the flooded floor along with the boats, the actual texts and rest of the space are maybe not particularly innovative. BUT, this was an incredibly exciting place to be in. It seems that this extra experience of sloshing through water, really transforms what is primarily a text and video experience into something exciting and even a little emotional. I didn't see any portion of the exhibit that visitors manipulate temperatures or water levels in order to observe changes. If I were designing the exhibit, I would include some simulation (whether physical or digital) to allow people to play with the system - to develop an understanding of the relationships between these environmental factors (Sim-ClimateChange ?). I also must add that the text was mostly in Norwegian with some shorter English explanations as well - so its quite possible that missed certain elements. This small potential missed opportunity in no way diminished the impact of the experience. This was a cool and inspiring exhibit!

I'll post more reflections and pictures from the rest of the museum soon.

-- Rolf Steier

4 comments:

  1. I wonder if the playfulness that you noticed, as you had a boat steered into your legs, might also open up space for kids learning with other kids in addition to learning with the materials of the exhibit. Maybe an unintended? consequence of the boats as learning vehicles also invites crashing your boat into others' boats - or just others - which might afford conversation with new others as well as the exhibit?

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  2. This is a good thought. I just wrote another post about a Lego exhibit at the same museum . The Legos seemed to encourage these types of conversations that you're talking about. In the case of the legos, these objects were the exhibit - whereas the boats were meant as vehicles (figuratively and literally) to explore the rest of the climate exhibit. The question to me is, how can elements like these boats - which seem to be inherently engaging - encourage dialogue and exploration of the rest of the space. The museum staff-person wasn't convinced that this was happening.

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  3. I love this idea especially because it seems to bridge the "world" of the character (which kids might have a tendency to get immersed in) and the present, here-and-now of the museum. Moving back and forth between the two takes a certain kind of flexiblity and probably comes more easily to kids than adults..? --I think what I'm saying that this seems like a real "child-centered" approach.

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