Quietly transforming our relationship with science and technology: Boston’s Museum of Science

Back in 2004, the Museum of Science in Boston, MA USA began exploring the idea of transforming America’s relationship with science and technology. Over the next 6 years more than 10,000 individuals, corporations, foundations and governments helps the Museum raises $150 million to capture that vision and create a master plan bringing the Museum of Science experience into the 21st Century. That phase is now complete. A new phase, in fact the largest fundraising effort in the Museum’s  180-year history, kicked off Thursday , 14 April, 2011 at the annual Science Behind the Stars gala.

“We have made spectacular progress,” says Ionnis Miaoulis, the Museum’s president and director. “Together with our benefactors and strategic partners we will realize our vision and reach the broadest possible audience with exciting programs, timely exhibits and bold initiatives that attract and engage area residents as well as people around the world.”

Based on the success of the previous phase, the Museum’s board of trustees approved the $250 million campaign, after feasibility and planning studies were conducted by the Wayland Group. Building on the $150 million already raised, the goal is to raise an additional $100 million by 2015.  Fundraising will be in the form of inside out with programmatic goals inspiring the building’s construction and renovation. The plan calls for the Museum of Science to direct $40.7 million to Exhibits and Educational Programs, $33.3 million to Facility Transformation , $15 million to Endowment and $11 million to the Annual Fund.

Archemedian exhibit
Exploring the Archimedes exhibit at the Museum of Science

In an interesting twist, educational goals will drive the construction projects including in the plan. The Museum of Science intends to create a physical presence that communicates the excitement of its mission. Guided by the principles of sustainability and universal design, the Museum’s innovative educational program for transforming its galleries will drive changes enabling enhanced accessibility to the exhibits, programs and infrastructure. Examples include:

  • human body
    Learning about being human

    Hall of Human Life – This is a new kind of educational experience exploring health and human biology. The 10,000-square-foot exhibit will showcase accelerating breakthroughs in biology, as viewed through the evolutionary, anatomical and environmental lens in particular. Content for this ever-changing exhibit will draw on New England’s vibrant research community based in academia, healthcare and business. Logging into an eventual worldwide virtual community, visitors will take biometric measurements of themselves, compare their data to that of other visitors and  respond to “Provocative Questions” to encourage critical thinking.

  • What is Technology – This gallery will help visitors understand what technology is and introduce them to the human-made world with intriguing examples of technologies created as humans engage in engineering skills to solve problems.
  • Charles River Gallery – This gallery is an important component in transforming the New England Habitats area and opening the Museum to the river.

The fundraising campaign will also underwrite the Museum of Science’s plans to:

  • Transform its exhibits and galleries to tell the story of the natural and designed worlds and their extraordinary connections.
  • Update and transform the Museum’s public spaces and amenities, focusing on sustainable systems and materials without enlarging the Museum’s footprint.
  • Champion the growing integration of engineering into curricula, forming partnerships with museums throughout the world enabling visitors to connect with their counterparts in other countries.
  • Develop and expand the role of science centers worldwide as venues for forums on critical issues that involve citizen discussion and deliberation to inform science and technology policy.
  • Maximize the use of technology to enhance the onsite and online educational experience with media-rich, personalized interactions.

The Museum of Science is one of Boston’s most attended cultural institutions and among the world’s largest science centers, attracting more than 1.5 million visitors annually through programs and 700 interactive exhibits. Founded in 1830, the Museum was first to embrace all the sciences under a single roof and has played an important role in the lives and educations of many Boston area residents and visitors.

Building the Hayden Planetarium
Original construction of the Hayden Planetarium

At the opening of the Museum’s Planetarium in February, New York City mayor and Boston native son Michael Bloomberg, shared his childhood memories of the Museum, which had sparked his personal donation to the renovation of the Charles Hayden Planetarium.

“What I learned from this museum changed my world. I learned to question, to think. The first-hand impact that an institution can have on one person is something I understand. For all the money we spend on education and all we talk about policies, education is one teacher dialoguing with one student. To me, that teacher was the Museum of Science.”

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