Monthly Archives: June 2010

An afternoon at the Museums

At the moment the course is covering Science museums and discovery centres, which is interesting but there appears to be lots to read, so yesterday I took a break from reading about them and drove down to see a couple myself in Manchester

The Manchester Museum.
http://www.museum.manchester.ac.uk/

A traditional museum in the centre of Manchester with plenty of artefacts in glass cases.  The collections were an odd mix of Egyptology and natural history.  The natural history section was generally quite stereotypical with big skeletons of a sperm whale, an elephant and i believe there is a dinosaur there somewhere although I couldn’t find it.  What I wasn’t expecting was some of the glass cabinets to contain live animals (snakes, frogs, lizards).  I was impressed.  No interactive displays as far as I could see, but there were plenty of areas for kids to draw things and be creative.  It seemed quite busy on this wet Sunday afternoon.  There were plenty of kids who seemed really interested in what was behind the glass cases.  As well as the famillys there were quite a few people in their  20s/30s walking around enjoying the place.  There was a Darwin exhibition on which I found quite disappointing.  A relatively small room tucked away behind the gift shop with walls full of images and text about Darwin, and a few small artifacts, mostly replicas although there was a pocket sextant there which he apparently used. Throughout the museum were guides weareing t-shirts that said ‘ask me’.    The museum was free to enter with opportunities to part with your cash at the cafe and gift shop.
Museum of science and industry
http://www.mosi.org.uk/

On the other side of the city centre is the Museum of science and industry.  This is a massive museum spread over four or five buildings .  There was even a steam train that would take you between buildings for a small fee. It has a large focus on industry, energy and transport and how they linked to the history of Manchester.  There were quite a few presentations going on including a demonstration of steam power and a demonstration of how cotton gets made.  Many of the exhibits were massive engines and pieces of machinery from the industrial age.  There were also a number of ‘interactive’ and multimedia displays.  I also spotted a couple of kiosks which allowed visitors  to have a go on specific websites such as Tryscience.org.  There was a visiting exhibition on Da Vinci, which is the only part I had to pay for.  At the reception for this area i noticed you could buy a brochure or rent an audio guide.  The group behind me were disappointed the guides were only available in English.  The display included large wals of images and texts as well as several reproductions of the devices he designed.  Each item had a symbol attached indicating whether it was a ‘hands on’ or hands off ‘display.   The museum didn’t seem as busy as the Manchester museum , but this could be because it was spread over a far larger area. Although the majority of the museum was free there seemed to be quite a few opportunities for visitors to o part with their cash including £5 for car parking (£2.50 in the pub car park over the road) the Da Vinci exhibition (£7) the steam train (only £1) a hydraulic action ride (about £5) and of course the gift shop.

General Reflections
I was suppressed that young children seemed to be really interested in the ‘old fashioned’ Manchester museum, I guess it goes to show don’t underestimate the power of glass cases, im sure the live animals helped.  I was impressed with the live demonstrations in MOSI which were more proactive than the ‘Ask Me’ assistants of the Manchester Museum. Both museums reminded me why i was never too keen on science museums as a child.  These types of museums, understandably, always portray science as history, and as a child i was never keen on history.  They gave the impression that science was something that happened a long time ago.   To be fair to MOSI they did have a display of scientific discoverys over the last 100 years or so, but this wasn’t enough for me.

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