National (at Catalan level) museum of science and technology (mNACTEC).
A network of museums
The creation of today's National Museum of Science and Technology was an old Catalan ambition. The Association of Engineers, which drove the project forward from 1976, had already tried to set up a museum at the end of the 19th century. (information from the website).
The museum is part of a network of museums distributed around Catalonia. All these museums are related to science and technology and more specifically to the process of industrialisation of Catalonia. A key characteristic of these museums is that both the content and the building are museum objects.
To be under the "umbrella" of the national museum is a voluntary decision and therefore there is not formal structure and no hierarchy among the different 25 museums. However, there is a need to work closely and define some common guidelines. For that, they have created 8 programs that are led from different sites; some are mandatory (i.e. educational activities) and some are optional (i.e. industrial landscape or industrial tourism). One of the mandatory programs is institutional image. This one belongs to the main museum (mNACTEC) and defines the website guidelines, a common logo and the style of the other logos, the merchandising, etc.
These programs as well as other common activities were created to promote collaboration among the different museums.
Another key element within this strategy, is to form the different staff members on ICT including new trends and technologies. As a museum of science and technology, they should be ahead on these issues but they are not yet.
The building of mNACTEC
The building that houses the mNACTEC, the Aymerich, Amat and Jover mill, is an example of Art Nouveau industrial architecture in the country. Designed by the architect Lluís Muncunill i Parellada, work began on building the factory in 1907 and it was opened barely a year later.
The mill, (known in Catalan as a Vapor or Steam after the steam engine used to drive it), contained all the industrial processes to transform wool, from the moment when the raw wool entered the building to when it left as finished cloth.The Museu de la Ciència i de la Tècnica de Catalunya (mNACTEC) has 22.200 m2 of surface area, of which 11.000 m2 correspond to the original rectangular plan shed of the Aymerich, Amat and Jover mill. This great room, in which the permanent exhibitions Power, The Textile Mill, Homo Faber and Transport can be found today, is covered by a special saw-tooth roof.
They have 3 patterns of visitor types, depending on the museums:
- 70% children from schools and organized groups, 30% tourists and people without an organized visit
- 50%, 50%
- 70% tourists and people without an organized visit, 30% children from schools and organized groups
The public they are aiming now are young adults (20 - 30 something years-old) and families with young children.
For example, Saturdays are down time and this is something they would like to change.
The main museum has about 100,000 visitors / year. All the museums together around 350,000.
Games and other educational activities: the CERN exhibition and the activities around it (as part of the International Year of Astronomy)
The CERN exhibition is based on the activities of this research center in Switzerland (www.cern.ch) and the exploration of the beginning of the universe.
Besides the psychical exhibition at mNACTEC, they have built 9 interactive and virtual games each for one of the 9 phases of creation of the universe. These games are educational and focus on different activities (work in groups, empathy games, etc.). They will be launched this June and high schools will start participating in September. In January high schools with the highest rankings will go to the different museums for a game on-site. Therefore, this activity is done on the mNACTEC but also in some of the other museums that have decided voluntary to join. As a consequence, they need to recreate the same exhibit and environment for each museum.
They have also worked on an activity for younger children and their parents. They have turned the more scientific explanation of the process of the creation of the universe into a children's story. This story has been told by storytellers at some of the museums on a Saturday afternoon and then kids had to do a drawing to illustrate the story. Now, they are putting together all the drawings with the story. Again, this activity has required to have the same exhibit at different spaces.
Since not all drawings can make it to the story, they would like to find a way to publish them online and continue creating a community of parents and children.
There are also activities for schools such a levitation workshop or a contamination one.
For more information on the exhibition and activities: http://www.mnactec.cat/expo/explorant_els_inicis_de_univers_el_cern_lhc_i_la_fisica_de_particules_en.html. It's in Catalan but it has also a virtual map of the exhibition and other multimedia resources.
The museum's website (http://www.mnactec.cat/index.php) has an interactive map, virtual tours of the exhibitions and, in general, lots of multimedia resources.
A common theme across the different museums I've visited is the need to differentiate themselves from the ethnology museums. In this case, the do not only want to do "industrial archeology" but also connect the past with the present and the future. And in this sense, the ICT are key.