When’s the last time you visited a science museum?
Maybe it was on a field trip when you were in fifth grade, or perhaps it was when you were visiting a new city and you heard that their natural history museum had some cool dinosaur bones exhibit. Or maybe your kids needed an idea for a science project, so you took them around the nearest museum for an afternoon hoping for lightning to strike.
But if it’s been a while since you’ve been to one, you’re not alone.
Many science museums are located in large cities, so they can often be expensive to travel to. But even if you are a city resident, if you don’t have tons of free time to travel to the wealthier neighborhoods where many museums are situated, access is not always possible.
There are certainly science museums conducting meaningful outreach outside of the museum walls, and connecting with audiences they may have never reached otherwise. However there’s also another issue at play. As Charles Philipp puts it, “there’s just not enough science museums.” And with the high costs required to run conventional museums, it’s unlikely that we’ll be seeing a bunch of new traditional science museums popping up all over the country anytime soon.
That’s why Philipp and his colleague Amanda Schochet decided to reinvent science museums — by shrinking them.
They launched MICRO, a nonprofit organization, which builds tiny science museums that are only six-foot-tall — roughly the size of a vending machine — and which are designed to be portable so that they can be placed anywhere: libraries, hotels, train stations, hospitals, malls, or even airports.
“It’s fundamentally important for everyone to have access,” says Schochet. “[So] we want to make these museums easily replicable, because we really want them to be everywhere.”
The goal is simple: engage and fascinate people of all ages and backgrounds with the amazing process of science. And to do it for free and in places where people usually expect to be bored — like the DMV or in waiting rooms.
Each “micro” museum explores a certain scientific topic in a fun, relatable, and interesting way. So far, MICRO has built several museums covering two topics in science. The first is the Smallest Mollusk Museum (which also happens to be the largest mollusk museum) and it explores the weird world of invertebrates.
The second is the Perpetual Motion Museum, which explores the age-old struggle to understand energy and how to harness it.
And Schochet and Philipp aim to create many more micro museums to explore fun and interesting topics in the core sciences of biology, physics and chemistry.
“Our goal is that within 5 years, we will actually be the most visited museum in the country,” says Schochet. “Our museums are very small, but our dreams for this are huge.”
To learn more about MICRO, check out this video:
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