Thanks dedicated readers and participants. The SLIS476 blog Archives Unboxed is now wrapping up for the Fall 2017 season. Stay tuned for more posts and cultural heritage projects coming in Spring 2018.
I will also be turning the reigns over to our new instructor, Marta Crilly. Welcome Marta!
The Science Museum of Minnesota, located in downtown St. Paul on the Mississippi River, has been an important institution since its founding in 1907. Learn more about the museum at its website: https://www.smm.org/. At the science museum, various themed events are held every year. They serve to spark interest among diverse groups of people in the museum, its exhibits, and programs; and to highlight its commitment to education. Events like “Preschool Playdates,” that work to engage toddlers and their parents every Tuesday. “Behind the Scenes,” that offers visitors the opportunity to explore the labs and workshops where scientists and exhibit planners work. “Science Fusion” events, such as “American Indians in Science” and “African Americans in Science” allow the museum to partner with community groups, scientists and educators from ethnicities and cultures often excluded in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields. In spite of these interesting and varied programs, many people still think that the science museum is only for children. This is because of its focus on interactive exhibits and education for children interested in STEM fields. In order to counter this perception, a now popular event was created at the science museum: “Social Science,” a series of 21+ nights which occur every two months.
“Social Science” events are themed according to special exhibits, holidays, and more. Previous events in October have been Halloween themed, such as “Murder Mystery” and “Undead.” In February, events are often related to Valentine’s Day, with titles like “Sex and Love.” A popular Social Science theme is “Fermentation,” which teaches visitors about the process of making beer and wine, and was inspired by a Science Live Theater production, “Fermentation Demonstration.” In 2013, during the unveiling of the exhibit Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed, the event revolved around archeology and the culture and history of the ancient Maya. In April of 2017, the theme was “Play, Tinker, Make,” and focused on inventing and engineering. Whatever the theme, “Social Science” events incorporate hands on activities and the chance to meet with scientists and other professionals and learn more about the topic at hand.
“Social Science” events take place on Thursday nights between 6pm-10pm. The museum’s schedule on Thursdays is usually 9:30am-9pm, so on social science nights the museum closes to non-event visitors early in order to prepare. Bars serving wine and beer and a dance floor are set up, and adults of all ages are free to view the permanent exhibits, participate in event related activities, or dance the night away beside the dinosaurs. The omnitheater and regular in person theatrical performances at Science Live Theater are also available on a schedule throughout the night.
“Social Science” offers an opportunity for adults who might not otherwise be interested in visiting the museum to learn about what kind of exhibits, programs, and information it can provide. Partnerships with local businesses, universities, other museums and professionals also help to bring new visitors in the doors. For example, local breweries, the University of Minnesota, and Ecolab have sent representatives to “Social Science” events to talk about their products, programs, and scientific pursuits.
A typical “Social Science” event includes interactive activities, presentations by professionals, and special exhibits, all in connection with the theme. For example, during the “Murder Mystery” theme night, actors portrayed suspects; and visitors were encouraged to question them, test “evidence,” learn about DNA and blood spatter patterns, and make an accusation based on their findings. Experts in the fields of criminal justice and biology were present to discuss genetics, anatomy, statistics and more. Interesting to me, as a visitor, was the table run by the Ramsey County Coroner, who was there to talk about his job and answer questions related to autopsy and solving crime. It was fascinating to learn about a profession I had only heard about on television.
“Social Science” events help engage young adults and community and business groups with the educational offerings of the Science Museum of Minnesota. Interactive exhibits and activities are not only for children, and the museum endeavors to demonstrate this during “Social Science” events. Learning about different fields of science and the latest experiments and inventions from professionals helps adult visitors to the museum to understand the importance of science education and how the museum is contributing to these educational efforts. Learning about science is beneficial not only to school-children, but also to adults who are not professional scientists. Social Science events are a fun way for adults to learn more about science and the science museum, and to better understand the world around them.