Author: Prof. Mike Bruton and Chris Bischoff
The management of the science centres and museums should be implementing this nimble and adaptive strategy to retain the interest of the public.
Choosing the right employees is the first step. Individuals who typically challenge the status quo will be the ones who are motivated to constantly improve the science centre’s offering to its visiting public. This spirited and enterprising mindset needs to be encouraged by regular stimulating discussions on how science and technology can be presented to the public in the most exciting and engaging way.
Science centres differ from museums as they have a dynamic policy with regard to display renewal. Museums may retain the same displays for decades; however, science centres tend to change their displays every few months or years so that there is a dynamic offering to the visiting public that encourages return visits. This approach allows science centres to jump onto the latest discoveries and technological developments and offer a glimpse to the public through an interactive exhibit.
People-centred activities are the heart and soul of dynamic science centres and are another characteristic that distinguishes them from traditional museums, which tend to rely on static displays. Science shows on physics, optics, chemistry, mechanics, and robotics, science theatre productions on famous scientists and their discoveries, impersonations of eccentric inventors and innovators, and cutting-edge technology demonstrations, are all standard fare for successful science centres.
Another excellent mechanism for science centre display renewal is staff training in response to the changing priorities of society and to develop display themes based on global issues. These themes could be based on those that are announced each year by the United Nations or on those that are defined nationally or regionally.
The dynamism of a science centre will also be determined by the vision of management. If the leadership is conservative, satisfied with the status quo, and risk-averse the public’s interest in the facility is likely to wane over time. If the leadership is bold, easily bored, risk-taking, eccentric, and thought-provoking, then the science centre is likely to be exceptional.
Science and science education are human endeavours that exist in the domain of the mind and are driven by restless and curious people who need to scrutinise the status quo. Creative science centre managers are constantly on the lookout for novel ways of doing everyday things. They also seek out new connections, methods for communication, and different ways to contextualise science in novel ways.
formula-d, itself a nimble and highly dynamic company, strives to design the activities and displays that ensure that a science centre or museum remains relevant. Staff training, display renewal, people-centred activities, and the development of themes are all elements that are taken into consideration when launching a new display.