Museums are key players in education, both in art history and beyond. The London Science Museum has been taking their educational even more seriously since the opening of Wonderlab in October 2016.
Wonderlab is a space designed with kids in mind, so they can explore and experiment with more than 50 marvels of science. With scientific Explainers that take children through the experiments, parents are almost unnecessary and can just relax and learn along.
Wonderlab is the first truly immersive and interactive gallery of the London Science Museum. It is a place very different from any other, where children can (and are supposed to) run, touch everything, wreck things... to understand the answers to their wildest scientific questions.
With slides to learn about friction force and balloons to understand flammable gases, scientists from the Science Museum have worked to make all science principles understandable with references that are part of children's everyday life, so they can both leave Wonderlab with a better knowledge of how science affects their environment. Exploration of the space has also been made fully intuitive: there is no route through Wonderlab, kids just run around and stop at whatever catches their eye and start experimenting freely.
And because our world belongs to each and everyone of us, the Science Museum is asking everyone to share their own wonders on social media with the hashtag #wonderis, offering an opportunity to make the outside world part of the museum thanks to tweetwall. The hashtag has not really been shared by users with that goal in mind, but it gives us a great idea of what is going on in Wonderlab.
As far as education through experimentation is concerned, the opening of Wonderlab can be compared to the opening of the Wanger Family Fablab at Madatech, Israel, where children can play with tech to have a better grasp of it, the Museum for Children, located in the State Ethnographic Museum of Warsaw, the V&A Museum of Childhood and the Cité des Enfants in the Parisian Cité des Sciences.
Architects and artists for an immersive museum
But Wonderlab has been curated by Muf, an architecture firm that has previously designed both urbanism and art projects, among which the British Pavilion of the 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale, with a whole space created as a space for discussions and workshops for Biennale visitors and local kids and schools. To mix art into science, Muf choose creative partners to design artworks and installations for Wonderlab. Artist Siobhan Liddell, whose work using ambient light and reflective properties of materials, has produced 13 prints for the Mathematics section; the Swedish studio Front has created an eight-meter-high solar system model (featured below); Muf has also chosen to work with artists who have special skills, like stone carving students and Felix de Pass, a designer specializing in furniture design.
Interestingly enough, Wonderlab is just one step of a major redesign of the science museum.
We cannot wait to see how the major architecture firms curating other galleries will find a common ground between their own imprint, artist commissions and the educative mission of the Science Museum, but no doubt it will be a wonder to visit.