• Bridging the
Gap : Science Centres using the Web to present science to the
public (Exploratorium and CERN)
The "www" is a new medium combining aspects of television,
videotape, magazine, exhibition, library and field trip. Websites
and webcasting can improve museums’ public communication
of science and technology activities.
Webcasting in rapidly becoming a powerful communication channel,
capable or reaching niche audiences world-wide. Interaction, multimedia
and archival features make it even more effective than television
for scientific communication. Relying solely on Internet infrastructure,
webcasts can reach audiences anywhere on the planet, making this
the most effective audiovisual media to convey information, education
and communication into developing countries.
The San Francisco Exploratorium encourages real and virtual visitors
to talk to scientists directly. It uses live webcasts to give
visitors a “field trip” experience. This provides
the opportunity to show people the excitement of science and the
wonder of the natural world. Using the interactive possibilities
of the new technology, the museum connects live to places of authentic
science activity, such as the CERN laboratory, Antarctica or the
Hubble Space Telescope.
The Exploratorium is a museum of science, art and human perception
in San Francisco (with 650 interactive exhibits on basic science).
In 1997 staff at the Exploratorium started to consider how the
web could be used to show the process of modern science. It is
difficult to do this with exhibits alone. Also they wanted to
expand the museum audience beyond those who could actually visit
the museum. This thinking lead to the development of the "Live
@ Exploratorium" Project.
Initially, they ran a trial event during which an audience on
the museum floor could view the Hubble Telescope Servicing Mission
via the web as it happened. A TV studio produced output to the
web of the Mission and web users could ask questions and post
comments. The event was very successful and strengthened their
belief in the concept.
Key communications lessons:
The project has achieved its aims by:
- Connecting the museum live to places of authentic science
- Using an experiential museum approach (field trip)
- Improving museum’s ability to act as a facilitator
between the world of science and the public
- Developing collaboration with science producing institutions
(CERN, Hubble Space telescope, Antarctic)
- Developing an onsite and online audience
To learn more: