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Bridging the Gap : Science Centres using the Web to present science to the public (Exploratorium and CERN)

Webcast process

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.

Live @ the Exploratorium

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Key communications lessons:

The project has achieved its aims by:

  • Connecting the museum live to places of authentic science activity
  • 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:

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