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5 Chemistry in Museums “Murder and mayhem and whatnot is much more exciting than test tubes and Erlenmeyer flasks.” –Paul Bryan Speakers in this session discussed chemistry in different types of science museums, which have served as popular venues for informal learning for many years.1 The speakers included Sapna Batish from the National Academies’ Marion Koshland Science Museum, in Washington, D.C.; Susanne Rehn, via webcast, from the Deutsches Museum, in Berlin, Germany; Shelley Geehr from the Chemical Heritage Founda- tion, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Peter Yancone from the Maryland Science Center, in Baltimore, Maryland. CHEMISTRY AT THE KOSHLAND SCIENCE MUSEUM Sapna Batish provided a brief history of the National Academies’ Marion Koshland Science Museum (Figure 5-1). The Koshland opened in April 2004 and prides itself on FIGURE 5-1 Marion Koshland Museum, located at the corner of being a science museum for teens, unlike many museums in 6th and E Streets, N.W., Washington, D.C. the United States that are focused on an elementary school SOURCE: Marion Koshland Museum, 2010. audience. All of the Koshland exhibit content is based on studies conducted by the National Research Council (NRC). school and high school students in the Washington, D.C., An exhibit topic is chosen based on there being a major body area. Batish added, “We like to connect current science with of work by the NRC to support it, if it is continuing to be tangible, real-life scenarios for students and teachers. All researched, and if it has significant relevance to society. materials have been designed by former teachers and are The Koshland is considered a hands-on museum. Rather field-tested with students.” than having artifacts, the museum focuses on using digital Koshland has three main exhibits. The first is called interactive equipment to convey science to its audience the Wonders of Science, which includes satellite imagery, (Figure 5-2). The museum is also unique in that it shows population density, and energy use over a 10-year period, as the confluence of science and policy, given that its exhibits well as the human cell. There is also an exhibit developed at are based on NRC studies about scientific topics that are Harvard Medical School featured in the museum, as well as relevant to society. In addition to having a general audience, an interactive exhibition that looks at the origins and expan- the museum also works with middle school and high school sions of the earth and the universe. students. It offers free field trips and transportation to middle The second exhibit looks at emerging challenges of infec- tious diseases, such as malaria, AIDS, and tuberculosis, in an 1For an excellent historical look at science museums, see A.J. Friedman. interactive manner. Batish explained, “In the one on tubercu- 2010. The evolution of the science museum. Physics Today (October): losis, visitors get to be doctors. They get to choose a patient, 45-51. 34
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35 CHEMISTRY IN MUSEUMS planting trees and increasing building efficiency (Figure 5-3). They get to consider the economic and environmental trade-offs of each of the options. Based on the success of that exhibit, the museum is in the process of developing a new climate gallery. It is going to be based on two recent NRC studies—America’s Energy Future and America’s Climate Choices. The climate gallery will include topics such as climate science, climate impacts, mitigation, and adaptation to climate change. They will be much more focused on decision making and on advanced decision-making tools. Batish noted that it is challenging to help the public understand something as vague and ambiguous as climate change through a hands-on science activity. She said that the FIGURE 5-2 The Koshland museum focuses on using digital inter- active equipment to convey science to its audience. SOURCE: Marion Koshland Museum, 2010. and then they administer medication to the patient over the course of 18 months, and they get to see what the viral load looks like, and they get to understand why it is that this issue is prevalent and a problem in different parts of the world.” The last of the three exhibits is on global warming. It has been there since the museum opened and displays evidence that humans are causing recent climate change. She added, “It starts off by asking, Has the climate changed, what are its causes, how might it change in the future, what are the consequences, and how can science be used to inform our responses to climate change?” Chemistry is offered through all core areas of the Kosh- land, which include museum exhibits, field trips, hands-on science in the museum, community outreach efforts, public programs, and its website. As she heard many of the speakers say, Batish added, “Chemistry is just an inherent part of every aspect of life. We don’t have to talk about chemistry from the perspective of an atom or a molecule at the museum. It becomes apparent to visitors that the basic fundamentals of what we are talking about are based on chemistry.” For example, there is an exhibit that shows images of ice cores. It helps visitors understand how ice cores can be used to measure the temperature of the earth 500,000 to 800,000 years ago. It involves using a ratio of oxygen isotopes from air bubbles trapped in the ice cores to infer temperature. “Then, coming back to the present, we talk about changing concentration of greenhouse gases and what that means in terms of our current and future climate,” Batish added. One of the most popular exhibits is one that focuses on decision making. The Koshland found that visitors really enjoy this exhibit because they get to consider the environ- FIGURE 5-3 Consider the alternatives. Koshland Science Mu- mental and economic trade-offs of decisions. For example, seum visitors make a choice between planting trees and increasing there is one scenario in which visitors see the impact on building efficiency to reducing greenhouse gases. reducing greenhouse gases when they choose between SOURCE: Marian Koshland Museum, 2010.
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36 CHEMISTRY IN PRIMETIME AND ONLINE museum has been fortunate to have science and technology policy fellows (recent Ph.D. scientists) helping to develop these hands-on activities. One activity was developed by a chemistry student who was finishing up her Ph.D. in chemis- try at Northwestern. It shows museum visitors how changing chemistry levels can lead to ocean acidification. The activity also helps visitors understand how ocean acidification will impact calcareous plankton, coral reefs, and other marine ecosystems. The museum is involved in many festivals around the city. One in particular is the Arts on Foot Festival. It takes place near the Verizon Center every September. Batish showed a picture of one of the fellows engaging in an exercise that simulates the spread of infectious disease, using simple ingredients to represent bacteria, vaccines, and antibiotics. “We help them to understand how quickly FIGURE 5-4 The Deutsches Museum, which opened its doors on disease can spread and what we can do to combat that,” the Museum Island in 1925, is the largest science and technology she explained. museum in Germany, with approximately 1.4 million visitors an- The Koshland also offers public programs. Batish showed nually. The chemistry galleries with approximately 1,000 square a picture of a family at a Saturday program learning about meters have been closed for redesign since 2009. the importance of Vitamin C. It is vital for human health, SOURCE Susanne Rehn; copyright: Deutsches Museum. and humans cannot produce it so it must be acquired it though diet. During the program, visitors test different sports drinks to determine the levels of Vitamin C. Another activ- The original chemistry exhibition was divided into two sec- ity highlighted the importance of iron in fortified breakfast tions, one historical and one focused on modern applications cereals—in its elementary form, not in combination with any of chemistry. In parallel there were exhibitions of chemical other compounds. She said museum visitors were able to engineering. She said chemistry now occupies about 1,000 actually extract iron from a slurry of breakfast cereal flakes square meters, roughly 10,700 square feet, on the first floor in a Ziploc bag using a strong magnet. of the museum building. However, the museum’s chemistry Finally, Batish noted that there are DVD ROMs and exhibition has been closed to the public since autumn 2009. interactive exhibits on the Koshland website that help people It will be completely redesigned, with an expected opening in understand the importance of chemistry and its relevance 2012. The three historical laboratories, replicas of the alchemy in today’s society. One example is Safe Drinking Water Is laboratory, Lavoisier’s laboratory (Figure 5-5), and Liebig’s Essential. It is a virtual (online) exhibition on safe drinking laboratory, are very popular and will continue to be a part of water. She said that the online exhibition attracts domestic the renovated exhibition. as well as international audiences. It also attracts decision Rehn said, “The laboratories were designed according to makers, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and educa- historical models, putting visitors into the appropriate time. tors and is available in five languages. “What we really want Essentially the visitors become part of a life-sized stage. The people to understand is, it demonstrates the evidence for the stage shows and explains basic methods and insights gained growing populations without access to adequate drinking during the time, but individual objects, chemistry explanations, water. It gives survey solutions and technologies to increase and persons take a back seat.” The alchemy laboratory repre- the quality and quantity of drinkable water in the world,” sents a typical post-medieval laboratory based on paintings of Batish concluded. David Teniers the Younger.2 From the beginning, she said, the laboratory replicas were meant to show the abundance and variety of equipment and materials used in the past. Over the CHEMISTRY AT THE DEUTSCHES MUSEUM decades, they have had to reduce the diversity, and install a The next speaker provided insights from a museum known railing and an alarm system. internationally for its exemplary chemistry and chemical Rehn then talked about the old exhibition of scientific engineering exhibits, the Deutsches Museum (Figure 5-4). chemistry. Visitors entered the exhibit after the historical Susanne Rehn explained that the museum is the largest science laboratories. It featured a high standard with regard to con- and technology museum in Germany, with approximately 1.4 million visitors annually. It was founded by Oskar von Miller 2To in 1903. She mentioned that since the beginning of the exhibi- view historic artwork depicting alchemy, see the Chemical Heritage Foundation website at www.chemheritage.org/discover/collections/search. tions, there has always been a chemistry department. aspx?collectiontype=Fine Art&q=alchemy (accessed November 29, 2010).
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37 CHEMISTRY IN MUSEUMS FIGURE 5-5 The chemistry galleries in the Deutsches Museum are famous for their life-size reconstruction of historical chemical labora - tories. A typical laboratory of the eighteenth century was built after an illustration found in Diderot’s Encyclopedia (left). Being the same period in which the great chemist Antoine Laurent Lavoisier lived, the laboratory is called “Lavoisier’s laboratory” (right). Other historical laboratories in the museum show chemistry in medieval times and in the nineteenth century. SOURCE: Susanne Rehn; copyright: Deutsches Museum. tent. There were different chemical reactions set up behind Rehn said, “One can speculate about the reasons for this glass that could be performed with the push of a button. popularity. One reason may be that the [lecture] experiments The reactions demonstrated chemical foundations, such as shown resulted in spectacular displays. Another may be that acid-base reactions, coordination complex reactions, redox the background to each reaction was explained on the spot reactions, and so on. However, no connection was made by the colleagues holding the lectures. Personally, I believe between the reactions and the daily lives of visitors. The that a significant reason can be found in the lack of distance. design was also quite monotonous, with long corridors that No glass between the visitors and the experiments, no long left the public uninspired and unengaged in the information, texts to read, and so on.” In approaching the redesign of according to Rehn. the chemistry exhibition, the museum had as its goal to The exhibition did contain occasional historical objects. expand upon the basic approach of turning chemistry into For example, it included the famous table showing the origi- an experience. It wants to show that chemistry is an inno- nal instrument used by Otto Hahn and Lisa Meitner when vative, responsible science. “I don’t know how this is seen they discovered nuclear fission. In contrast to the historical in the United States, but in Germany there is considerable laboratories, the objects found near the chemical reactions prejudice against chemistry, regardless of any achievements were described in detail. of the past. Chemistry may be any of these: unnatural, toxic, Rehn explained that the previous exhibition had some harmful. On top of this, chemistry only happens in labora - great merit because it focused on chemical experiments. tories far, far away. Our goal is to break up this rigid image Visitors were able to conduct a large number of experi- and consciously highlight chemistry where visitors meet it ments, which they enjoyed. The experimental equipment every day,” explained Rehn. was simple, but it was not visible to the visitor, which made “One of our most important messages is that chemistry it difficult to understand the science going on. Also the glass has benefits for every one of us in the whole society,” Rehn window between the experiment and the visitor created a said, so the selected topics include sports, fashion, leisure, distance that kept people from reading the text and under- and so forth, which explain plastics and advanced materi - standing what happened. als. Other topics include nutrition, cosmetics, construction, The third feature of the chemistry exhibition, even more and energy stores. A section called analytics will feature popular than the historical laboratories and chemistry experi- forensics. “We are designing a virtual crime scene, and ments, was the experimental lecture. The lectures took place visitors will be able to find out more about the scientific up to three times a day and attracted an audience of about background of analyzing each piece of evidence. This way, 14,000 during the last year the exhibition was still open. we lead the visitors through analytical principles like paper
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38 CHEMISTRY IN PRIMETIME AND ONLINE FIGURE 5-6 The complete redesign of the chemistry exhibition. The approach is to turn chemistry into an experience. The museum wants to show that chemistry is an innovative, responsible science, which happens every day around everybody. The selected topics may include sports, fashion, leisure, nutrition, or industrial raw materials. There will also be a hands-on laboratory, as well as a modern lecture room for 100 visitors to complete a visitor’s interactive experience. SOURCE: Reprinted with permission of Ambos & Weidenhammer and the Deutsches Museum, Munich. chromatography,” Rehn explained. She said that part of the THE MUSEUM AT THE CHEMICAL HERITAGE new exhibit will also allow visitors to experience learning FOUNDATION about basic chemical principles such as acid-base reactions, The next speaker highlighted a museum completely dedi- and so on. cated to chemistry. Shelley Geehr described the Chemical Her- Rehn showed some drawings of how they think the new itage Foundation (CHF) as a library, a museum, and a center exhibition will look. Topics will be shown in what they for scholars. She said, “We like to say that we tell the story of call islands, without a shell or membrane (Figure 5-6). chemistry, we don’t do chemistry.” Through its museum and The interior of each island will hold a core element of the public program, CHF fosters an understanding of chemistry’s exhibition, as well as text, graphics, original objects, and impact on society—-through its collection, research, and fel- demonstrations. She said that the challenge for chemistry lowships. Geehr explained that the museum is the newest part will be showing something that is really too small to be of CHF, having just opened in 2008. For a long time, she said, seen: “Unlike an airplane or a combustion engine, I cannot CHF was a library and a center for scholars. “We did a lot of put molecules on display in a glass case.” They will try to collecting of materials, the papers of scientists, their old instru- show everyday products that receive their special properties ments, artwork, objects, artifacts, things that told the story of thanks to chemistry. Also, there will be both historical and chemistry through time. We came to a point where we realized modern objects, such as analytical instruments, laboratory that there was a need and an interest in making these items equipment, and materials samples. Rehn showed a sketch more accessible, not just accessible to our scholars and our from a demonstration of hydrogen bonds, where visitors can researchers, but to a broader public,” said Geehr. move one water molecule with a handle on it, and as they CHF is located adjacent to Independence National His- do so they can see how the intermolecular forces act on the torical Park, which has helped attract visitors to the museum. other water molecules around it, and how they rearrange Geehr said they take advantage of the fact that Independence themselves accordingly. Future visitors will be able to do Historical Park has more than a million visitors a year, and chemistry experiments in a hands-on laboratory and again many of them go by CHF and end up going in. The CHF take part in lectures in the auditorium. museum had about 15,000 visitors in its first year of opera- Rehn finally showed drawings of the auditorium and tion, with almost half of them from outside the Philadelphia laboratory complex in the new exhibition. She explained that area. At the same time, CHF is not open on weekends, which the exhibits will be located in such a way that the visitors significantly affects museum attendance. will walk along a time line showing the laboratories from the The main exhibition CHF has is called Making Modernity. sixteenth century up to today. “While visitors will be able to It is a permanent exhibition and has a range of interesting see the historical laboratories like three-dimensional paint- items: fine art, laboratory equipment, rare books, and everyday ings, they will be able to walk into the hands-on laboratory objects. The items are from the 1600s to the present. The aim and run their own experiments,” Rehn added.
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39 CHEMISTRY IN MUSEUMS of the exhibit is to show how chemistry touches everyday life. stand contemporary issues, to appreciate the role of chemical Geehr said: “I think you have heard that over and over again sciences in everyday life, and also to provide people in the this afternoon. That is what really works—to show people field—the science and technology professionals—with a where chemistry exists in their everyday life.” As an example, broader perspective. The museum is aimed at the high school she mentioned computers and how making a computer chip is and higher level, and scheduled tours are offered to high school a chemical process. and college groups, as well as to business groups visiting the CHF exhibits cover a range of topics, from alchemy, to conference center. Staff have developed three tours with a synthetics, to the chemical instrument revolution. She showed task force of practicing teachers and a couple of education some cartoons poking fun at scientists and other chemical consultants, called Chemistry in the Public Eye, Elements of artwork. She noted that CHF has one of the largest collec- Knowledge, and Creative Chemistry, each of which provides tions of alchemical paintings in the world, and these paintings a different-themed way to go through the museum exhibition. are a wonderful way to show people how science has been a They also customize tours as needed. part of our lives. She added, “Investigation has always been a Another activity Geehr mentioned is participation in a sci- ence café3 CHF started called Science on Tap, in collaboration part of our life, and it used to be done within the home, [we] show people that this is very much a human endeavor. That is with four other Philadelphia science institutions: the Academy our strength, to show how these things fit in context, to show of Natural Sciences, the American Philosophical Society through art, through objects, rather than through the individual Museum, the Wagner Free Institute of Science, and the Mut- experiments or the hands-on discoveries.” ter Museum of the College of Physicians. She said that it is One example of an interesting everyday object Geehr an inexpensive and amazingly successful program. The café showed was a wedding gown made out of an Army surplus takes place the second Monday of every month, with each nylon parachute (Figure 5-7) from World War II. She thought group taking turns to bring in a speaker. The format includes it was a wonderful story to tell, how after the war “people used a very brief lecture followed by an extensive Q&A in a bar. fabrics that were designed for other purposes and were able to She said it has been “wildly successful.” The first one had 50 change them and transform them.” people, and they have never had less since then, “even during CHF also does public programming. There are tours and the Philly playoffs!” said Geehr. themed talks, as well as informal lectures. The goal of these Another successful activity is CHF’s First Friday program. programs is to provide the public with more tools to under- CHF is located in Old City Philadelphia, and many art gal- leries in that area stay open late on the first Friday of every month. There are many people around at that time, strolling around, looking at art, getting something to eat, and having drinks. CHF stays open late too and offers activities to attract visitors to the museum. Activities include making molecular origami, batteries out of lemons, and sun prints. Gehr noted, “It is amazing, the number of young people and adults who come in. They sit down, they will work on a small project for 20 to 30 minutes, and while they are doing this, we have someone walking around in a very casual way, talking about the science or the chemistry of what they are doing.” She said that last December they made papier maché ornaments and had a staff member who is a chemist talk about starch chemistry. People had to leave the ornaments behind because they were too wet, but they came back the following Monday to get them. “So it tells you that they had a good time, they valued it,” said Geehr. In addition to the museum and activities, CHF also has a magazine, which Geehr described as its touchstone. “It has been around since the beginning. We use it to tell a variety of stories about the history of chemistry. We get tons of letters, tons of people coming up to us saying we love your magazine, particularly teachers. A lot of teachers find ways to use these features in their classroom.” The magazine staff also works closely with CHF web staff to expand the communication of FIGURE 5-7 Everyday objects. A wedding gown made out of an Army surplus nylon parachute from World War II. SOURCE: Shelley Geehr, Chemical Heritage Foundation permanent 3There are many science cafés in place across the county. For more collection. information, see http://www.sciencecafes.org/ (accessed April 13, 2010).
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40 CHEMISTRY IN PRIMETIME AND ONLINE content. The magazine only comes out three times a year, but staff would like to move more of the content to the web. CHF has additional features on the web, such as its weekly podcast called Distillations.4 Geehr said that CHF has been producing the award-winning Distillations program since 2007 (the New York Festivals gave CHF three bronze medals for the podcasts in 2009). CHF also has three blogs, which she said all have very distinct voices. One is for the CHF schol- arly community; one is the CHF president’s blog, where he talks about a variety of topics that interest him; and the third is called “The Center,” which highlights research and other activities by scholars in the CHF Center for Contemporary History and Policy. Gehr noted that CHF is also getting involved in social media, such as Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube. She FIGURE 5-8 Periodic Table of Cupcakes. An arrangement of cup- said that Flickr has been particularly valuable for CHF, because cakes in the form of a Periodic Table of the Elements was created to the images get picked up and used in various places. “Jezebel, celebrate the first anniversary of the opening of the Chemical Heritage which is a feminist blog, picked up an image of our chemistry Foundation Museum. People in the lobby could not wait to get into set for girls, a beautiful chemistry set in a pink box. It is actu- the room to have their cupcake on a Friday night in October. ally called a lab technician’s set for girls,” Geehr added. She SOURCE: Shelley Geehr, Chemical Heritage Foundation. said that there were more than 100 comments on the image. In another example, Wired Science picked up a CHF image of on my staff to recognize the opportunity for chemistry and to litmus paper. “We have had successes like that, a way to get extract it from those kinds of experiences that we do have and our collections out in the world and get people to talk about that do come through the museum.” them,” she said. Yancone elaborated on some of the more practical aspects Geehr ended with an image of CHF’s anniversary cake, on of trying to implement large-scale chemistry exhibits and the first anniversary of its museum. It was a Periodic Table of demonstrations in museums and what prevents some museums Cupcakes (Figure 5-8), which was featured on a blog as well. from doing more. He noted that it is not trivial to incorporate She said there were two young women, who just started an chemistry into a museum. Yancone said, “This is not the kind AP chemistry course in their high school, who planned to get of thing that says, if only we had a little more energy or I had H and I—hydrogen and iodine—spell HI, and then eat their one more staff person, I could overcome all this and, presto, I cupcakes. Geehr reported that “unfortunately they got there would have a chemistry exhibit. Safety is a paramount thing. a little too late so they couldn’t do that. But there was such On the one hand you are trying to create a sense of ease around enthusiasm to do something like that. They made their mother chemistry, but you also have to keep the fire extinguisher at drive them in from the suburbs and they were just lovely.” hand. You also have to make sure that the materials that you She said, “I think there is a great deal of hope going for- have designed the exhibit with are going to withstand it.” ward. I think telling the stories, the people, the innovations, Yancone explained that staffing is a critical issue, because the way it affects our lives each and every day, I think that staff need to be comfortable with the activities, otherwise is the way to truly draw people in, and show them beautiful any uneasiness they have will register very quickly with the things, show them artwork, show them Bakelite buttons, and audience. Sometimes staff require special training to handle they get it.” chemicals. The museum typically doesn’t have a staff chemist; The final speaker on chemistry in museums was Pete Yan- there are volunteers, however, who have worked in the field or cone, from the Maryland Science Center. “If you visit Mary- who have taken some course work. Finding or hiring a chemist land Science Center you won’t find any [chemistry-specific is not always possible. content], at least nothing labeled Hall of Chemistry,” said Chemistry exhibits are also expensive, said Yancone. “It is Yancone, but he explained how the museum provides chemis- not like some exhibits where you can build it and 5 years later try content and experiences in a variety of ways. He described you have spent nothing more than changing the light bulbs on the Maryland Science Center as a typical science center. He it and maybe sending the cleaning crew through. If you are said it was recently renovated, but chemistry is not one of the doing chemistry, you have got to keep the chemistry coming,” core group of exhibits. He said, “That makes it more incumbent he added. This can be the deciding factor for museums to cre- ate a chemistry exhibit versus one on physics or other topics. Yancone also pointed out, “Good chemistry, exciting 4 For more information, see the Chemical Heritage Foundation chemistry is messy chemistry.” He said that this affects safety Distillations website at www.chemheritage.org/community/distillations/ index.aspx (accessed November 30, 2010).
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41 CHEMISTRY IN MUSEUMS and the facility itself. Disposal of used chemicals is a major The challenge in those spaces, Yancone said, is to make concern, particularly for outreach and travel to schools. “What them meaningful. “As a visitor, you walk in, you sit down, the do you do with this stuff? You are left with one collection of staff provides you with materials, or you sit at a bench that is chemicals that now becomes something else. Can you leave already pre-stocked. It is really fancy. You get to put on a white them at the school? Maybe not. You bring them back, and then coat before you sit down, and maybe you glove up and you what do you do with them?” Yancone added. wear the safety glasses.” The experience is ideally an investiga- On a positive note, Yancone said that chemistry is very tion, but sometimes it is just cookbook chemistry. The visitor popular: “every survey we do of our visitors, they want to do follows a procedure with computer guidance, and everything chemistry. Their sense of the chemistry that they want to do works. However, he said, occasionally the computer or the is not electron dot diagrams. They don’t want to come in and program text will lead the visitor through branching, and there calculate the probability of electron orbits. They want to mix are choices to make and predictions to make. “Then you are stuff together and see what happens.” actually doing an investigation,” said Yancone, and “visitors In terms of exhibits, Yancone pointed out that there is a big really like this stuff. They are doing it hands on. Even when difference between interactive and static displays, and there is it doesn’t work for them, they are really happy that they had a reason to have both in a museum. They have tried interactive the experience.” chemistry exhibits with mixed results. They had an acid-base Another aspect of the museum is conducting classes and titration, where the reagents were metered out with the push of workshops. Yancone described how the classes and workshops a button. It only lasted for about a week. The plan had called for often help supplement the exhibits. For example, he discussed the exhibit to be filled about once a day with reactants, but once a new exhibit coming to the museum on marine archeology it was opened to visitors, 5 liters of the chemicals disappeared and shipwrecks. He said that part of the experience is about in less than an hour. Five milliliters of reactant was metered conservation of objects removed from the bottom of the ocean, out every press of the button. Yancone lamented, “It turns out which is a great opportunity to do electrochemistry. “When it was really motivating for visitors to press that lever and get you don’t have a chemistry exhibit, this is where you put your 5 milliliters of stuff, and like rats in a cage, they were pressing chemistry,” said Yancone. The big challenge though with away, because if 5 milliliters works, 10 milliliters must be at classes or experiences for school groups, drop-in weekends least twice as good.” for visitors, especially families, Yancone said, is that “you have Yancone noted the special importance of demonstrations in got somebody who is middle aged walking in with a teenager, a museum. He said, “It is part of a noble tradition.” He said that walking in with a 5-year-old. The experience has to work for many people will remember even a decent display of chemi- all of them.” He noted that they also offer an overnight camp- cal phenomena, whether it is a university celebrating Chem ing program and after-school and homeschooler programs. Day, the college fair, a science museum, or the World’s Fair. “All of those are out-of-school kinds of experiences. There the He recalled seeing DuPont’s Wonderful World of Chemistry audience is school age children, but they are not in their school at the ‘64 World’s Fair. He said, “I had forgotten all about it mode and that makes them operate differently,” he added. until one day on our demonstration stage I realized I was doing Another challenge of conducting chemistry activities, that demo and was surprised to remember it in that context.” Yancone said, is “there is always a dynamic tension between Yancone noted, however, that demonstrations are for the most education and marketing.” He said that it is easy for the market- part passive. Sometimes visitors may be included, but this is ing staff to declare that every chemical experience is somehow always a judgment call. “One of the concerns that we have is chemical magic. However, many visitors cannot tell the dif- whether a volunteer adds something to the presentation or not,” ference between magic and chemistry, so while the education said Yancone. He said the best thing about demonstrations is department undersells the magic piece, “the marketing depart- the spectacle. He said it is the kind of thing that works really ment always stuffs that in,” he added. well for promotional purposes. Yancone also talked about the museum’s involvement in Yancone said that IMAX has now reached into the chemi- promotional events. “Things that are event based certainly cal arena with programs such as the Molecularium show.5 He garner media attention. Where does the local TV outlet turn said that the planetarium could also become a place where when it wants to hear about, I don’t know, the fact that air you can display medium crystal lattices. He also mentioned quality has been down over the city for the past week because the topic of facilitated lab experiences, such as the cell biol- of some temperature inversion. They can’t interview their own ogy experiments that Kirsten Ellenbogen discussed. Maryland meteorological staff, so they have to talk to somebody and, Science Center also received a Dreyfus grant to provide similar fine, come to the science center. When National Chemistry activities, which included biochemical and inorganic chemical Week (NCW) takes place, especially on the weekday, where experiences. are you going to go to find an audience? It is October. The museum would be a good place to try,” he explained. A topic that hadn’t been discussed much by other speakers 5IMAX Molecularium: Molecules to the Max, www.moleculestothemax. is the role of the museum store. “Much like our surveys of visi- com/ (accessed November 30, 2010).
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42 CHEMISTRY IN PRIMETIME AND ONLINE tors that say they all want to do chemistry,” Yancone said, “it give you 10 ways to print it, but seeing the chemical process turns out that the science store at the Maryland Science Center, that produced the black and white image, I guess I am still when they ranked what they sell, dinosaurs is number one, impressed with that myself, but not the way they react to it.” right behind it is anything related to chemistry.” Even though Geehr believes that understanding how relevant something there is not a strong presence of chemistry in the museum, it is, is a “gee-whiz” moment for a lot of people. “If you look at is what people are walking out of the store with. Space comes some of the younger people, they have never lived in a world after that. He mentioned that at one time there were some sci- without plastic. They don’t understand that there used to be a ence stores at museums that turned into a local resource for time when these things were difficult or complicated.” She said labware and reagents, but this didn’t last long due to liability that one of the things they have in the CHF museum, which and security issues. is a little shocking to people are tools that physicians use for Yancone concluded by talking about how the museum diphtheria. As the throat closed, these stainless steel devices uses the Internet. The museum website provides extensions to were shoved down the throat to open it and prevent people exhibits and activities. In the case of chemistry, he said, all of from suffocating. the chemistry demos have activities that can be done at home. For example, when the double blizzard hit the East Coast last No Chemical Formulas, Ever year, the museum found that the hits on its website were those take-home activities. A participant asked Geehr about the use of chemical for- mulas and molecular structures in the CHF museum: “How important do you think [structures are] as a mediator in public OPEN DISCUSSION 4 understanding of what chemistry is all about?” Note: This session covers topics introduced by speakers Geehr responded that as a history museum, CHF has con- centrated on telling the story and explaining it, but not really and participants in the immediate and preceding workshop showing the chemistry explicitly. “So that is our out, that we sessions. are a history place, so we don’t have to do the little chemical Bill Carroll pointed out that about 20 years ago, the DuPont diagrams.” However, she said that they do use them when it’s slogan was “Better Living through Chemistry,” showing how important. “We explain them, but occasionally you have to its business was connected to the experience and quality of show that this molecule comes together with this molecule,” life. He said that a lot of what had been discussed during the she said. For example, CHF has a temporary exhibit right afternoon session focused on the relevance of chemistry to now, which includes a computer program that allows visitors everyday life. However, now the DuPont slogan is Miracles to build Viagra. She said that people spend a lot of time on it, of Science, Carroll pointed out. He then posed the question “so you can do it, but you have to put it in context.” She also to workshop participants, “Do we still have the sense of added, “It is a sad thing to say, but since the exhibition is about the miraculous; do we still have the gee-whiz factor for the society’s reactions to chemical innovation and a lot of those kinds of audiences that you are attracting to your programs? reactions are to make fun of [it], we went with Viagra because Or is some of that getting lost behind a greater emphasis on it makes people laugh. You could have done it with anything, relevance?” but Viagra makes people laugh.” Yancone responded that some of that “gee whiz” factor has Batish agreed with Geehr. She said, at the Koshland they been lost. He said, “There was a time when people lived closer focus on how science is relevant to people in their daily lives, to real life, not so much a virtual experience. I think about my which includes chemistry at all different levels. However, neighborhood. Five years ago I could see kids riding bikes and it is not always necessary to show or work with chemical playing outside. Now they are all inside playing videogames molecules. where they are riding bikes and playing sports online. If you Rehn commented that in the new exhibition at the Deutsches looked under your kitchen sink, you found ammonia and vin- Museum, they want to make people curious about the chemical egar and Drano, and Drano was labeled as lye. Now there are background of everyday stuff. They show visitors everyday cleaning products that have fancy names and fancy packaging, items, and then the visitor is supposed to ask, “What does but nobody knows what is inside the containers, and they all this have to do with chemistry?” Then they show the visitor have Mr. Yuck stickers on them and you are not supposed to the molecules and the formula, so they know it is not a secret get near them.” science as in the time of alchemists. On the one hand, he said he sees young people impressed by things that he wouldn’t have considered so impressive, because Celebrating International Year of Chemistry they have not seen the phenomenon before. For example, he said “If you bring 8-year-olds in and develop a print in black Nancy Blount, American Chemical Society, asked the pan- and white with some chemistry, they are in awe. They can elists if any of them have anything particular planned around operate a digital camera, they can process the image, they can the International Year of Chemistry in 2011 (IYC 2011) or,
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43 CHEMISTRY IN MUSEUMS National Science Foundation (NSF) History Makers program,6 if not, could they suggest what they might do to bring this to the attention of their visitors. Also she asked them to suggest about inspiring African Americans, which includes numerous opportunities for collaboration. oral histories of African-American scientists (saved digitally). Batish said collaboration is very important. “I think that She said it would be an excellent resource for involving would be an excellent way to bring different groups together. African Americans during IYC 2011. She also mentioned the We would be more than happy to share our experiments with collaboration between CHF and the National Organization for you, if you are planning to have anything in a different venue, the Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers a different city,” she added. (NOBCChE). Geehr also noted CHF’s collaboration with the Rehn said they tried to open the new chemistry exhibition African-American Museum in Philadelphia. She mentioned for IYC 2011, but it wasn’t possible, “so we are very sad that they may bring Steve Lyon’s Percy Julian film back to the about that.” They may have little activities showing chemistry African-American Museum to launch Black History Month in the yard of the museum or special lectures, but this is still with a chemical theme. uncertain. Brown also recommended that all museums consider doing Geehr said that the Chemical Heritage Foundation is very activities on the science of color. She said that she has a video excited about the International Year of Chemistry. CHF is and other materials about how Native Americans used natural working with the American Chemical Society (ACS), the plants to obtain dyes for textiles: “So a lot of this stuff can American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE), the be done. It is all out there, you just need to organize it and American Chemistry Council (ACC), and a number of groups show it.” within Philadelphia to launch the International Year of Chemis- try here in the United States. A series of activities is scheduled Chemistry in Prime Time for the first week of February, after the international launch in Paris. Also, CHF is working with a number of groups within Ruth Woodall changed the subject to chemistry in TV and Philadelphia to insert chemistry into unrelated events, such as the movies. She mentioned that the 2010 theme for NCW the International Festival of Fine Arts. It is hoping to bring the is about chemistry in the movies: “Behind the Scenes with Chemistry!”7 She encouraged everybody to go to the website Madame Curie interpreter in to perform. Chemistry.org/NCW and provide feedback. She also encour- aged participants to go their local areas and help celebrate Open Chemistry Labs National Chemistry Week. Rosenberg wanted to know more about how the Deutsches Bill Carroll brought up the popularity of the TV show CSI Museum plans to administer an open lab. He noted how the old (Crime Scene Investigation). He said that he has talked to a lot chemistry exhibits were great, but they were behind glass as of high school students and has asked them what made them she said, and now the museum is trying to bring them out from think about studying forensic science and chemistry, and the behind the glass. He said he went to a museum in Switzerland, answer usually connects back to the show. He said it seems Technorama, where they had a totally interactive exhibit, but that there are only a few places on television where one can with no real guidance. “You could go up, put your hand in a find science in action, with people doing scientific work, such glove box and play with liquid nitrogen and smash things. At as the fictional drama CSI and the factual, but entertaining the same time, there are examples such as at the museum in Mythbusters. He asked workshop participants what they see in Maryland, where the kids pressed the button so much that the CSI and Mythbusters. Are they a good thing, bad thing? “Who exhibit had to be taken out.” thinks CSI is a good thing from the perspective of informal Rehn said that in Germany, there are many labs with open chemistry education?” asked Carroll. plans, such as at the company Bayer. She said lots of universi- Paul Bryan said he is not a big devotee of CSI and NCIS but ties do similar things—they have a laboratory, a basic set of that he watches them occasionally. He thinks the show is con- reactions, most of the time including household chemicals necting chemistry with something that students see as exciting. such as ammonia, vinegar, lemon juice, or something similar. “Murder and mayhem and whatnot is much more exciting than There is also a set of recipes. She said that fortunately they test tubes and Erlenmeyer flasks,” he said. will have museum staff and Ph.D. students through a collabo- Steve Lyons observed that he thinks, on balance, CSI and ration with the University of Munich Chemistry Department. NCIS are positive because they do show science being used The students will be involved in creating the classes, giving in a creative way. However, he lamented that the creators of support, and evaluating the classes. She said, “I hope we can these shows feel that in order to make science or mathemat- manage it, both personally and financially.” Jeannette Brown noted that the CD-ROM the Koshland created on water will be great for the International Year of 6For more information, see w ww.thehistorymakers.com/ ( accessed Chemistry. She also suggested that the CHF look into the January 1, 2011). 7See http://portal.acs.org/portal/PublicWebSite/education/outreach/ncw/ CNBP_025198 (accessed December 1, 2010).
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44 CHEMISTRY IN PRIMETIME AND ONLINE ics palatable for people, they have to put it in the context of a next to him in the war so he could escape his parents, and this crime-solving program. He said, “I wish there was some way has followed him for the rest of his life.” to create a more realistic science program that didn’t have to Lyons said that in a similar way, someone could make shoehorn the science into that kind of program.” an interesting fictional but realistic series about chemists. For example, he thought it would be great to show chem- However, he warned that it cannot simply be focused on istry in a different place and time, such as the new fictional the chemistry. Chemistry can be part of the story, but more drama Mad Men does with advertising in the 1950s and 1960s. importantly, there have to be real characters with interesting He said, “I think what is needed is for some creative person . lives and stories. . . to come along to look at science in a new way and create a Mark Griep said Lyon’s idea reminded him of the 1930s and world [for chemistry] as original as Mad Men, and not shoe- 1940s movie montages he has seen. For example, in the movie horn science into a crime-fighting program.” Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet, about the discovery of “compound Participants discussed how scientists are portrayed in TV 606,” it took the main character 606 tries to find the right anti- shows in negative or in stereotypical roles. . . . However, Bais- biotic. In the movie, the discovery was shown as “a series of den mentioned an educational documentary television show bubbling apparatus, guys working at benches, people writing that aired on PBS called Connections that depicted science and in notebooks, and then finally the test works.” scientists in a positive way. She liked that show a lot, because it talked about scientific events, and then it connected them to Formalizing Informal Education societal benefits. Lyons agreed that Connections was a wonderful program. Carroll changed topics and commented that formal educa- He pointed out that it was British, and James Burke was the tion is highly organized and informal education seems to be presenter. “He is very good at making surprising connections rather hit or miss. He asked, “If the goal were to appreciate between these widely separated events in history and space.” that more of the education happens informally, how could He had a sequel called Connections II. Bill Carroll mentioned we do a better job of organizing that so that people come in that there was also a videogame associated with the show. contact with it more often and absorb more? Or does it simply Carroll then asked participants what is needed to have a have to be random?” Andrea Twiss-Brooks argued that some good entertainment program. He said, “You need good char- of the attraction of informal education is that it is not highly acters, you need a good reason for the show to exist. There organized, but it is a good idea to organize the content so that needs to be some central organizing problem around which people come in contact with it. She said, “Children have their you can get people interested. Is there a way of doing that days organized in school, but they often find their spark outside without murdering somebody? Can you make research inter- of school where it is not organized and they are able to use esting without showing the 100 times you do something and their own pace.” She thinks it is a good idea though to have it doesn’t work until the 101st time and it does? Is there a way resources, such as takeaways that somebody could use during of making that dramatic?” a blizzard. She said it is really important for informal educa- Lyons said they were able to do that in the Percy Julian tion to develop and make those kinds of resources available. documentary, by focusing on highlights of his life. He said, “If Rosenberg mentioned the project he is involved in called we had done a film about the entirety of [Julians’s] chemical SMILE, which stands for Science and Math Informal Learn- career, it would have been pretty boring, because there were a ing Educators and the URL is Howtosmile.org. He said it is lot of dull moments in that life. We just picked the high points.” part of the NSDL, National Science Digital Library, and is Carroll followed up with another question, “How would meant to be a pathway to informal education resources. “We you do [a show like Percy Julian] on a weekly [drama] series?” are trying to gather up activities that have been developed by Lyons replied that he wasn’t sure. “Looking at Mad Men as museums and after-school programs around the country into an example, Mad Men is a series about an advertising agency. one centralized place,” he said. There are some moments when they are focused on the nuts “I think about [Carroll’s] question a lot, actually. Most of and bolts of putting together an ad campaign for Pan Am or the activities that we are cataloguing tend to be hit or miss in for Kodak or whoever the client is who walks in the door. terms of, if you mix these two things together you see this There is a lot of dynamics among the characters who work effect. There is no higher level—if there is a higher-level expla- for this agency that brings you back to the period in the 1950s nation it tends to be lost in the doing and the seeing rather than and the 1960s, which is very realistically recreated by the the thinking,” said Rosenberg. He said that one of the goals of costumes and the sets,” he explained. What makes the series their project is to try and make it (1) so that people don’t keep work, Lyons said, is that “it is not just about advertising, it is reinventing the same activities, but can still compare the ones about those characters and their demons. The main character that have already been developed, and (2) to think about how is a very troubled guy. Earlier in his life he changed his name to get to that next level for an activity. “The trick is, how do in the war. He switched identities with a guy who was killed we take this informal field that is phenomenon based or story based in the case of media, and make it so that educators feel
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45 CHEMISTRY IN MUSEUMS more comfortable trying to get the learner, not just the kid, but Carroll asked her if she could engage her students to make the learner thinking about that next level and making a bigger their own videos that could be used for later classes. organizational pattern,” said Rosenberg. Thiel said she was not sure, but that she planned to go back Carroll said that this related to Yancone’s earlier point, from this workshop and organize her research group to cap- about chemical magic versus using a demonstration to educate ture its research activities in a YouTube video online and, she “that it is not just about the whiz-bang, but how do you use added, “make it as badly edited as I possibly can.” the demonstration to get the attention and then to say, this is Lyons responded to Thiel’s comment, “Your experience what is going on?” with these videos reinforces the point that I was making this Rosenberg responded, “Because it is free choice, because morning. Web video is a wide-open world, and nobody really the museum in particular tends to be 5 minutes here, 2 minutes knows how people are going to respond. So producing badly there, or home activities or after school—it tends to not be edited chemistry videos with rock sound tracks might in fact be very coherent.” He is working on cataloging the activities in the best way to go. Rather than producing little NOVA-ettes, the a more coherent manner so that an educator can start to think way I approached it. That might be totally the wrong way to do about what the learning goal might be for the activity, instead it.” He said it would be interesting for someone to experiment of just the phenomenon. with different ways of using video to communicate chemistry One difficulty for teachers is that they already have too and measure how people react to the different approaches. much to do. He said that unless information is put in the Carroll then commented, “When I am talking to students, hands of teachers in a highly organized way and the activities I will say, ‘When you go to a party and somebody asks you provided are easy to do, the uptake won’t happen. He said what your major is and you say chemistry, what do people that a goal of the SMILE program should be to figure out how do?’” He said the response is usually, “Ew, that was hard, you make the transfer of information easy and accessible, so no, I didn’t like that, I didn’t like my high school teacher, I that it fits into a teacher’s lesson plan almost without thinking got a D in that. You must be a brain. It is all that same thing.” about it. He asked, “How can we do a better job as individuals of not Rosenberg replied that what Carroll suggested is being getting to that moment, which I call the shutoff moment?” addressed. The activities and resources being catalogued are He continued, “Part of it is to get people . . . to talk about open to everybody and are freely available online, and related themselves first, and then maybe you can talk about what you activities are linked to each other. For example, there are the like about chemistry.” It is something the ACS has tried to instructions for making Flubber, where Elmer’s glue and borax do with the chemistry ambassadors, to work with people on are mixed together to make a silly putty-like polymer. How- their elevator speeches—15 seconds that allows a chemist to ever, the explanation about polymers in most of the write-ups tell people what he or she does in a way that does not induce is somewhat limited, so there are links to related activities, such the shutoff speech. as using cutout paper models of monomers that can be mixed He asked, “How comfortable do each of you who work in up in a bag with some Scotch tape to form a polymer model. a science-y area [feel] . . . with the elevator speech?” He said the hope is that more people will become aware that Bryan commented, “You don’t bring people to science by the activities are free and available online and that some will talking about science. You bring people to science by talking also add activities to the site. about something they are already interested in, and then you link it to science.” As an example, he talked about his work on biofuels. He said, “It is very nerdy and nobody looks like the Making Videos people in NCIS or CSI, not nearly as interesting . . . . What we Pat Thiel mentioned that for the last few years she has been do is really fascinating, and it is very much linked to things that teaching physical chemistry at the university level, typically people are interested in. So when people ask me what I do, I to students who are in their early 20s. She has observed that say, ‘I am trying to save the world.’ Then I can lead from that.” students in this age group are interested in unscripted YouTube Bryan recommended that participants look up an article called the Seven Triggers of Fascination.8 According to videos, especially those by their peers. These videos have loud music background and are badly edited. She said, “They the author Sally Hogshead, what really fascinates people love that stuff. It seems like the worse it is, the more they like comes down to seven different things—or what Bryan called it. They appreciate anything that I put on, because then they “hooks”—that grab their attention: lust, mystique, alarm, don’t have to listen to me, but the more formal it is, the more prestige, power, vice, and trust. He encouraged everyone to professionally it is done, the more quiet they are and the more think about what they do that links to one of the seven triggers. reserved they are in their reaction to it.” “Once you have reeled them in, then you can start moving She said a group of participants was talking about this at closely to the science, you have got them hooked,” said Bryan. lunch—that there should be some level of encouragement to people to try and put their personal science online, but not too 8S. Hogshead. 2010. Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and formally, or else it is not going to be as appealing. Captivation. New York: HarperCollins.
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46 CHEMISTRY IN PRIMETIME AND ONLINE Lyons suggested that “maybe by the time you make the up so that people don’t have that experience. Then maybe you elevator speech, it is already too late, because those people you can make some headway on the informal side as well. But encounter on the elevator have a shutdown moment because without reforming education too, you are always going to have they have been taught chemistry in high school and they react the shutdown moment.” to it in a negative way.” Carroll thanked Steve and said, “Perhaps we should close He said that he thinks this is a two-part problem. “Part of for the day by saying reforming chemical education might the problem is reforming chemistry education from the ground possibly be the topic of another symposium.”