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Experimentations Exhibition
Developed 1984-1988, open 1988-2009 and ongoing

Experimentations was one of the long-term exhibitions to open with the then new Powerhouse Museum in 1988. Jesse supervised the team developing this new style multiple-media, highly interactive, 700 square metre science display which needed no explainers for visitors to appreciate the content. Jesse wanted the exhibition to change people’s attitudes about science. He aimed to reach an audience who were likely to think that art was beautiful but science was not, that science was an activity done mainly by bearded middle aged men, that science wasn’t relevant to their lives and that it was boring. Therefore the exhibition look and feel had to be beautiful and inviting and its content and experiences convey how science was part of everyone’s everyday lives, that it involved a wide range of people and that science was an enjoyable activity. Experimentations immediately became the museum’s most popular exhibition and remained so for more than a decade. Its design enabled sections to be replaced and with Chemical attractions opening in 1996 and Nuclear matters in 2007 the popularity of the gallery continues.

Image reproduced courtesy of the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney. Photo: Andrew Frolows

The ‘Kinetic sculpture’ in the Experimentations exhibition is an example of a specially designed exhibit which intrigues visitors while promoting the science in surrounding displays. This exhibit became a much admired centrepiece for ‘Up and down’, the section which deals with gravity and motion. A hidden motor drives a wobble plate which makes groups of the rod linkages oscillate up and down. This movement gives a slow hypnotic wavelike motion to the outer circular and inner spiral tracks. A cart on the outer track predictably rolls along the downside face of the wave. But the cart on the inner track rolls upwards following the narrowing spiral until it reaches the apex and then races down the steep end to start its upward journey once again. Visitors of all ages try to figure out how the inner cart seems to defy gravity for most of its circuit. The exhibition team had the museum commission the Studio of Arts and Sciences to create this intriguing and captivating display.


Image reproduced courtesy of the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney. Photo: Andrew Frolows


This is a typical example of the use of multiple types of media in an exhibition. This interactive exhibit in the Experimentations exhibition enables visitors to bring to life some of the ideas represented in an adjacent showcase. People of diverse ages and interests find one or more of the multiple types of media in the displays suit their particular learning style. The variety of experiences and methods of communication help engage a wide audience and works especially well for family groups.




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