Go back to article: Museums theme – Science vs technology in a museum’s display: changes in the Vienna Museum of Technology with a focus on permanent and temporary exhibitions and new forms of science education

The Museum’s basic-research exhibition

In 2007, Technisches Museum Wien took a remarkable step towards basic-science education. Based on an Austrian Science Fund initiative, a new exhibition area was set up, ‘Basic Research – A Great Adventure’ (Abenteuer Forschung). In terms of its design and the issues it covers, this new section was specifically geared towards teenagers and young people. The concepts dealt with include batteries, bionics, cryptography, X-rays, cochlear implants and game theory, complemented by areas focusing on the pace-maker and climate change.

Figure 15

Colour photograph of an exhibition on research focusing mainly on the inner ear and climate change

The design of ‘Basic Research – A Great Adventure’

The main challenge in devising these areas was to reconcile cutting-edge science requiring considerable prior knowledge, with the needs of the target group: school kids aged 10 to 14 whose schooling had left them ill-prepared for dealing with complex science. The key issue thus was to get across the basic scientific concepts with the help of easy-to-understand objects, texts, images and films. Despite these efforts, the exhibition remained best visited with the help of a facilitator or explainer – not because the texts were too difficult but because of the amount of advance information that needed to be presented in succinct form. The amount of this text went well beyond the reading habits of today’s young museum goers. The persistently poor results of the Austrian PISA test in 2010 for this age group regarding reading skills did not indicate any improvement in this area. Thus, this section of the exhibition, with its dramatically colourful design catering to the young visitors’ imagination, was in stark contract with the sophisticated issues it presented. Due to the partly problematic accessibility and the quality of the temporary design the exhibit was dismantled in 2014.

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/170810/005