This year, the MCARLM interns took a weekend trip to San Francisco where we had the opportunity to visit 5 unique museums. Throughout the course of our trip we, of course, got to learn the information displayed at these museums, but- additionally- we learned more about museums themselves. At MCARLM, we prioritize the preservation and sharing of our local history, for this reason, we should also prioritize appealing to newer generations of visitors. In order to ensure that our history remains alive, it’s vital that the local youth is invested in it.
The Exploratorium at San Francisco values the interactive experience, as per its mission statement,” Our mission is to create inquiry-based experiences that transform learning worldwide…We create tools and experiences that help you to become an active explorer…” This emphasis on hands-on learning creates an engaging environment for visitors of all ages.
The Exploratorium is divided into multiple galleries that host exhibits and interactive experiences pertaining to that specific area's category. One of the most popular sections was the Human Phenomena area. Here, the museum highlighted concepts such as optical illusions, social experiments, and more. A particularly popular feature of this section was the gaming area which featured multi-player games focused on teamwork and communication. In addition to being fun activities, these games incorporate an educational aspect. Within the gaming area, a data station exists where visitors could analyze the trends that occurred depending on the various demographics of players. Visitors could learn about how different ages would play the game, different genders, different numbers of players, and so on- effectively showcasing the vast variations in human behavior.
The Exploratorium consists of five other galleries: The Exhibit Development Shop and Tinkering Studio, The Art of Tinkering, Living Systems, Outdoor Exhibits, and Observing Landscapes. One of our favorites was the Outdoor Exhibits area. As the name states, this section was located on a pier outside the museum and contained exhibits that allowed visitors to explore the San Francisco area more in-depth: from its engineering to its wind patterns.
Outside, people could be seen gazing into the sky, listening to their echoes through large pipes, or spinning across the pier in bright red chairs. This area showcased the natural phenomena local to the bay area and the ways humans have adapted to it. A scaled-down replica of the Golden Gate Bridge invited guests to shake it; this replica would then show how the real bridge would react in the event of an earthquake. This experience demonstrated the engineering feats of the bay area when it comes to earthquake safety. The outdoor area also featured a remote storm simulator; guests could stand under an umbrella, select their storm preferences, and watch as it rained all around them from the safety of an umbrella. This section was a great breath of fresh air that offered phenomenal views of the San Francisco bay.
Another gallery enjoyed by us interns was the Living Systems area: an exploration of ecosystems, small and large alike. The room was covered in tall windows offering great views of the bay and its marine life. Guests loved the “Cells to Self” collection which featured an exhibit that gave them the power to control human heart cells with their own heartbeat; by grabbing the heart rate sensor, the cells would then mimic your pulse. This gallery also showcased other life such as plants and bacteria; using virtual experiments as well as living microbes, this gallery demonstrated how different organisms adapt and survive. Another popular exhibit was the tornado; fans would replicate the air patterns of a tornado and fog would be added to make these patterns visible. This formed a mini-tornado you could step through!
The Exploratorium provided an engaging, educational visit to us both as visitors and museum interns through its interactive experiences. During our visit, we saw guests of a diverse age range, but there was a noticeable concentration of younger visitors. For museums, the preservation and celebration of knowledge is a priority. To see that so many young individuals were deeply engaged by the exhibits at the Exploratorium was incredibly uplifting. Children of all ages were invested in learning about scientific phenomena through a hands-on approach. If knowledge is to be preserved, then it’s crucial that the younger generations are aware of its importance. In this way, the Exploratorium showcases the importance of dynamic exhibits as these are very effective at captivating people’s attention. Overall, our trip to San Francisco gifted us interns with invaluable insight into the world of museums. We are all eager to use this newfound knowledge to help MCARLM grow and, as a result, help our community preserve local history.
"The MCARLM trip taken by us interns served as incredibly educational and helpful to the future of our own museum. We were able to cover 5 museums during our weekend in San Francisco. Our trip showed us a diverse array of museums from the historic Alcatraz to the sensational Ripley's Believe It Or Not. Each museum, however different in content, illustrated a unique way to appeal to larger audiences. My favorite museum was the Exploratorium; it effectively used technology to create engaging and informative exhibits. Alcatraz also used technology well in its new exhibit on mass incarceration in current-day America. I believe this exhibit is vital to making people's Alcatraz trips truly worthwile; the exhibit uses the historical context of Alcatraz to highlight current issues regarding incarceration in the USA. A similar model can be added to MCARLM; we can better incorporate the past into the present. For example, we could explain the way in which previous native American settlements have influenced the current population distributions. Or, we could show the change in the types of crops planted in the Salinas Valley over time. I believe this change will help the community better understand the importance of mcarlm; we can see how we got here. Overall, the trip was undeniably fun and educational. I'm excited to help better MCARLM with the information we gathered."