Developing Interactive Exhibits with Scientists: Three Example Collaborations from the Life Sciences Collection at the Exploratorium

April 25th, 2018 | RESEARCH

Science museums have made a concerted effort to work with researchers to incorporate current scientific findings and practices into informal learning opportunities for museum visitors. Many of these efforts have focused on creating opportunities and support for researchers to interact face-to-face with the public through, for example, speaker series, community forums, and engineering competitions. However, there are other means by which practicing scientists can find a voice on the museum floor—through the design and development of exhibits. Here we describe how researchers and museum professionals have worked together to create innovative exhibit experiences for an interactive science museum. For each example: scientist as (1) data providers, (2) advisors, and (3) co-developers, we highlight essential components for a successful partnership and pitfalls to avoid when collaborating on museum exhibits. Not many museums prototype and build their own exhibits like the Exploratorium. In those cases, there may be similar opportunities in more mediated offerings such as public demonstrations or lectures or in other formats that allow for direct interactions between scientists and visitors. We believe there are many opportunities for researchers to share natural phenomena, to advise on exhibit development and interpretation, to provide much needed materials, and to otherwise incorporate authentic research into the learning experiences at museums, no matter what the format.


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Team Members

Denise King, Author, Exploratorium
Joyce Ma, Author, Exploratorium
Angela Armendariz, Author, Exploratorium
Kristina Yu, Author, Exploratorium


Identifier Type: DOI
Identifier: 10.1093/icb/icy010

Publication: Integrative and Comparative Biology
Volume: 58
Number: 1
Page(s): 94–102


Funding Source: NSF
Award Number: 1548297

Funding Source: NSF
Award Number: 1612831

Funding Source: NSF
Award Number: 1514612

Funding Source: NIH
Award Number: R25 RR15627

Related URLs

Full Text
Visitor Interactions in Microbiology: A New Genre of Science Museum Exhibits
Seeing Scientifically: Scaffolding Observation of Complex Visual Phenomena


Audience: General Public | Museum | ISE Professionals | Scientists
Discipline: Education and learning science | General STEM | Life science
Resource Type: Peer-reviewed article | Research Products
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Museum and Science Center Exhibits | Museum and Science Center Programs | Public Programs