A mind-moving museum

iTEACH - Jose Claro (The Philippine Star) - August 14, 2012 - 12:00am

Last summer, during my visit to the glorious and majestic Vatican Museum, I was disappointed to hear our tour guide inform us that our trip would only focus on the highlights. Asked why, she remarked it would take us two weeks to see all the exhibits of the museum. Besides, she pointed out emphatically, museums are meant to be revisited. Her statement clearly reveals a culture that loves going to museums. But this statement made me ask: Are Philippine museums designed as places to be visited over and over again?

One Philippine museum certainly considered that question — the newly-built Mind Museum in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. This futuristic museum at the heart of an emerging urban center easily impresses first-time visitors with its modern and innovative design. Once you start your tour of the museum, you will be greeted by a robot that will give you a quick introduction of the place. Far from the dark and stuffy building we usually associate with typical Philippine museums, the Mind Museum creates excitement by barraging the visitor with interactive exhibits and a symphony of sounds and activities. It does not come as a surprise that consultants from the Singapore Science Centre and National Geographic Society assisted in designing the building.

This museum will not bore our young people since its primary audience seems to be the Filipino youth. The museum features a combination of interesting displays and interactive activities. Dynamic and youthful tour guides, ingeniously named by the museum as Mind Movers, encourage youths not only to enjoy what they see but also to discover the scientific concepts behind the captivating exhibits. A highlight of the museum is the towering T-Rex model cast from real fossils, which is the first of such exhibit here in the country. It also houses mini-theaters for AVP presentations and demonstration rooms where science practitioners conduct engaging scientific experiments to mesmerize the minds of the Filipino youth. There is also a large exhibit hall that administrators claim is part of a plan to showcase traveling exhibits from around the world. My favorite though was the planetarium. Inside the tents there are no benches waiting for spectators but low and comfortable cushions designed to force observers to recline and experience what it feels like to gaze at and ponder the mystery of the stars and the universe.         

Another admirable feature of the museum is that this was a joint collaboration of many great Filipino minds, not just in the field of science but also from the arts and architecture. The Mind Movers will emphasize this when they point out that it was the Filipino artists who made the sculptures of the primitive men. The layout of the building is creative, thematic, and easy to follow. This feature is not present in other science centers in other countries because it overwhelms visitors with too many paths and galleries to choose from. The Mind Museum also purposefully and repeatedly equates science and technology with Filipinos by constructing a gallery highlighting the unique yet unheralded scientific contributions of Filipino scientists.

What many may not know is that the museum actually offered public school and foundation school students free access to their facilities before their formal opening last March. The people behind the Museum not only have ingenious minds, they also have big hearts.

The Mind Museum in Taguig is highly recommended to be a periodic family itinerary because it is truly engaging for children and the youth. Parents and teachers should check out the museum’s official website to see the scheduled demonstrations and special events that change almost every month. This guarantees museum visitors that there is something new to look forward to for every visit. 

Museums shouldn’t be one-time field trip places. They are learning spaces that support the school and home in honing the intellectual capacities of the child. In the case of science museums, they motivate by demonstrating and exhibiting how the knowledge they obtain in school can be translated to the fascinating and practical technologies we use today. Like what Heraclitus says about rivers, each visit is a novel experience with potential for new insights and inspiration. It is this inspiration that gives direction and goal to student learning. Not all students get that from schools. But many would surely find it from regular visits to museums.

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