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Science and Environment

Explore science at the Mind Museum

- Patricia Esteves -

MANILA, Philippines – A 40-foot skeletal exhibit of Stan the T-rex. A thrilling display of solar bugs that moves when the halogen light is on. A NASA space pod that simulates sounds from outer space inside a stunning planetarium.

You’d think these installations could only be found in Boston’s Museum of Science or San Francisco’s Exploratorium. But nope, these pieces are displayed at the newly opened Mind Museum, the first Filipino science museum situated right at the heart of Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.

The P1-billion Mind Museum, which opened to the public last March 16, houses over 250 hands-on interactive exhibits, five main galleries, an outdoor Science in the Park, a botanical garden, an auditorium, and a laboratory.

Mind Museum curator Maria Isabel Garcia said the idea of putting up the first science museum in the country five years ago seemed far-fetched and very difficult.

After all, they were saddled with where to get the funds.

“It was a mammoth undertaking and naturally, there were a lot of questions on our minds like can a third world country be able to build a world-class science museum? How will we get the funds?” Garcia told The STAR during a recently media family day event at the museum.

But the proponents of the project, the Bonifacio Art Foundation Inc. (BAFI) and Garcia, were resolute in their chief aspiration to open up a world-class science museum in the country.

“We’ve been to science museums in other countries and we are clearly lagging behind. Kulelat tayo sa ibang bansa. We harbored dreams that we could have one and we really wanted to. We didn’t have money to build but we thought it could be done. We were very optimistic. Five years later, here we are, we have the first science museum in the country,” Garcia added.

She said they are grateful to the private donations from corporate sponsors, and family and individual donors who made the museum a reality.

Manny Blas, managing director of the Bonifacio Art Foundation Inc., said he was also amazed at the overwhelming support of various donors.

“The first science museum in the country was really a journey of firsts. For one, it is in pursuit of a dedicated science museum of a scale that has never been done before. Second, it would rely on private donations of resources and services. Third, it would involve the closest collaboration between two usually separate worlds — the arts and the sciences. Fourth, it would have to rely mostly on local talents for fabrication, and fifth, we would have to do these all at the same time,” Blas said.

Garcia said they went through extensive preparations to complete the museum.

To make it truly world-class, the board commissioned the Science Centre Singapore and Jack Rouse Associates.

The Atom gallery features exhibit pieces that show the strange world of the very small in terms of forces and particles. GLENN JUMALON

Science Center Singapore, one of the leading science centers in the world with 30 years of experience in operating a museum, was the planning consultant.

The exhibition master plan was undertaken by Jack Rouse and Associates (Cincinnati, USA), recognized as among the top 10 museum and theme park designers in the world.

The iconic National Geographic Channel provided the museum with footages and stills for the exhibits which also served as an exclusive venue for its science-related events.

“The Mind Museum is really special. Every installation, every piece that you see in each corner is a testament of the overwhelming support from private corporations and individuals who believed in our vision. From start to finish, they supported us,” Blas said.

Amazing discoveries

There’s not a dull moment when you are inside the museum. Even adults are fascinated by the sights, sounds and the energy at the museum.

Blas said the museum is for the young and old alike, for kids aged six to 96, “a showcase of what we know, how we know it and what we do with what we know.”

The museum has basically five main galleries and tells the story of the Atom, Earth, Life, Earth, Universe and Technology.

“The galleries feature science facts, the process of discovery and their applications in technology. It is a place where visitors can learn science principles in a fascinating and interactive way, where teachers can find new and exciting ways to supplement their science lessons, and where students can satisfy their curiosity about how the world works,” Blas said.

The Atom gallery features exhibit pieces that show the strange world of the very small in terms of forces and particles. The Earth gallery, on the other hand, depicts the story of the planet and our archipelago across the breadth of time; it includes a 3-D animated film made by an all-Filipino crew that features 4.6 billion years of the planet’s natural history and evolution in 12 minutes.

The Life gallery features exhibits of large animals like the butanding, microbes, DNA, cells, and a giant human brain model.

The Universe gallery features the mysterious vastness of the universe and contains a unique planetarium that simulates star-gazing.

The Technology gallery shows innovative tools and gadgets invented over time.

“We want to reiterate that the Mind Museum is an educational and not an entertainment facility. You are there to learn, to find out for yourself the wonders of science,” said Blas.

Filipino imprint

Asked by reporters what makes the Mind Museum different from other museums in the world, Blas and Garcia said it’s the imprint of Filipinos who designed a majority of the exhibit pieces and brought them to life.

“The exhibits are largely original and not off-the-shelf types found in other science museums. Designs are by Filipino artists working with Filipino scientists and engineers to clearly and beautifully flesh out a science principle or fact,” said Blas.

Ninety percent of the pieces were done by Filipinos, Blas boasted.

“Majority of the exhibits were done by carefully selected local fabricators who also do work for science museums abroad. The faculty and designers of the College of Fine Arts of UP and UST were engaged to collaborate in the design of the science exhibits. It was a museum built from inside out,” Blas added.

To illustrate the ingenuity of Filipino artists, Garcia recounted an incident wherein she was showing a sculpture of the Hominids species by a special sculptor in Pampanga named Mang Jun to one of the consultants in the United States.

“He was bowled over by the work of Mang Jun. He told me there are only two people who can get the Hominids correctly; one is from Smithsonian, and the other from the London museum. Now there are three, our very own Mang Jun is included in the list. It was a proud moment to be a Filipino,” she said.

Not to be missed is the futuristic design of the Mind Museum which is the brainchild of a team of architects from Lor Calma and Partners, led by renowned architect Ed Calma.

Calma said the inspiration behind the building’s futuristic look was based on cellular growth and structures.

“We also put some environmental aspect to the design. A curved roof is for more efficient rain collection, slanted exterior walls to minimize the entry of sunlight, and strategic orientation to utilize the shadows of adjacent buildings,” explained Calma.

Garcia said Calma was drawn to the Mind Museum by the idea that it would influence a generation of Filipinos to see science and art.

Looking at the museum, Garcia could not help but feel a sense of national pride.

“It’s amazing that we are able to build the Mind Museum. This is our very own museum and we Filipinos should be proud of it,” she said.

Admission is at P600 each for adults, P450 for students in private schools, and P150 for teachers and students in public schools.

BLAS

BONIFACIO ART FOUNDATION INC

GARCIA

MIND MUSEUM

MUSEUM

SCIENCE

WORLD

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