An open mind

Rodolfo T. Santiago
The Mind Museum was conceived to aid in the spread of science throughout the country

 

MANILA, Philippines – Branding itself as the country’s first world-class science museum, the Mind Museum in Bonifacio Global City (BGC), Taguig, first opened its doors to the public on Thursday, March 16, 2012.

Developed by the Bonifacio Arts Foundation Inc (BAFI), the Mind Museum features 5 galleries spread over a 5,000 square-meter exhibit area that spans 2 floors.

The project team counts several local designers, engineers and academics among its ranks, and has partnered with foreign institutions like the Singapore Science Museum and Jack Rouse Associates, a design firm known for its work in science museums and theme parks.

The project was started 5 years ago and was led by curator Maribel Garcia and managing director Manuel Blas II to provide the country with a world-class science museum.

It forms the science component of BAFI, whose art sections include various monuments and installations throughout BGC.

The art of science

The museum consists of 5 main galleries, each with a different theme – atom, life, earth, universe and technology. All 5 are linked, however, in what Marco Araneta, science education officer of the museum, calls the “core narrative” of the Mind Museum. As such, it unifies all the exhibits.

“There’s a flow connecting all the galleries and it’s actually more than 1 [story] and anyone who comes here can find their own flow,” Araneta said.

The museum’s structure reflects this unifying concept, with the atom, life, earth and universe galleries on the 1st floor, and the technology gallery on the 2nd floor. The first 4 galleries reflect “what we know,” Alex Limcaco, also of the Mind Museum said, while the technology gallery reflects “what we do with what we know.”

The corridors between galleries serve as exhibit pieces themselves. For instance, the Light Bridge, which connects the atom gallery to the universe gallery, contains information about different wavelengths, going from small to large, or vice-versa, depending on which gallery one starts from.

The conscious effort to reflect information in the structure is part of an overall design strategy to present science in a creative way. Throughout the design process, an exhibit advisor council coordinated efforts between members of the local academe and the museum’s designers and fabricators. The end result is a fusion of art and science.

“Classically, it’s always 1 or the other but these days…both fields need each other’s help to be appreciated, to be relevant,” Araneta said.

Through the use of concepts not often associated with science, such as art and music, the museum hopes to communicate the message of science to a broader audience, attracting even those not normally interested in science.

“[It’s] a spoonful of sugar for medicine,” Araneta said.

WELCOME. The tour begins with a message from Aedi, a robot at the museum who takes charge of welcoming visitors. Notice how ‘Aedi’ is ‘idea’ spelled backwards? After all, that’s what the museum started as – an idea. Photo by Rodolfo Santiago

PTE. The periodic table of elements is done a little differently here. Each element has a glass case containing an object in which the element is normally found. Photo by Rodolfo Santiago

Inspired by necessity

And if medicine it is, then it’s one the country is in dire need of.

“It was inspired [by] a lack of museums,” Araneta said. “In Asia, we are the last to have [a museum] of this scale, so this country actually needs it.”

The Mind Museum project responded to a lack of more than just museums.

In 2003, the Philippines participated in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, an international assessment of the mathematics and science knowledge of students in a number of participating countries.

The test is administered to students in 4th and 8th grades, or 2nd-year high school in the local educational system.

In 2003, 137 sample schools in the Philippines took part in the study, with 6,917 students assessed. In the 4th grade level, the Philippines ranked 23rd in both math and science out of 25 participating countries. In the 8th grade level, the Philippines ranked 21st out of 25 in math, and 42nd out of 45 in science.

The subpar performance of the Philippines was in stark contrast to neighboring Asian countries, such as Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong, whose scores were well above the international mean.

LIGHTBRIDGE. The lightbridge connects the atom and universe galleries. Photo by Rodolfo Santiago

PACKING. The museum includes a number of interactive pieces like this one: A simple exercises of filling a big square with smaller squares. Or is that really all there is to it? Photo by Rodolfo Santiago

SCENTS. These glass globes emit certain scents. This one, for instance, contains Lavender. Photo by Rodolfo Santiago

Magic bullet?

In light of this, the idea of the Mind Museum was conceived to aid in the spread of science throughout the country.

Education is one of the main concerns of the museum, whose vision statement projects “will be our defining legacy that will give the next generation the wings to fly against the challenge of a future shaped largely by service and technology.”

Aside from the exhibit galleries, the museum also boasts of an auditorium, 2 classrooms and a laboratory. It also has a number of science educational programs planned for summer, which will include experiments, lectures, and field work. Several schools have also expressed interest in having field trips to the museum, Araneta said.

Still, the museum concedes its limits. “It’s not a magic bullet,” Limcaco said. “It’s not the answer to classroom learning, but it is an option.” – Rappler.com


The museum opens from Tuesday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Entrance fee for adults is P600.00, private school students at P450.00, and public school students and teachers at P150.00. Virtual tour of the museum by Fung Yu.

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