Science and Industry Museum – Manchester

There is a plethora of benefits in having industry partners involved. The vast amounts of knowledge and hands on experience that can be accessed during the duration of the project.

Working with the Science Museum Group means that our ESRs have access not just to the wealth of knowledge at their secondment institutions but the ability to visit other museums across the UK. Ellen De Korte, currently doing her secondment at the Science and Media Museum in Bradford, visited the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester.

Science and Industry Museum show

The museum, opened in 1983, is dedicated to the development of science, technology and industry with emphasis on the city’s achievements in these fields.

Inside of the Science and Industry Museum

The daily life of museum secondment – part 2

Written by Ellen De Korte

It is roughly one week until the Lates and the Bradford Science Festival. I am collecting final bits for my stall and testing things out. The big challenge of it all is finding ways to draw people in and keep them long enough in order to get them interested in my research. This is not only about designing my stall, but also how I will take visitors through my objects.

Cameras from the National Science and Media Museum’s handling collection were a major challenge, because they appeared to be more attractive to visitors than the other ordinary objects on my table. It is interesting to see people’s responses to the cameras. Visitors seemed to find cameras from around 1900 strange (and they are), because taking a picture with it is very different from how we take pictures nowadays. On the other hand, the more recent ones (1980’s) were more familiar to older visitors, so the cameras draw people in for two entirely opposing reasons.

Either way, this meant that I had to find a way to get the handling collections objects in, without entirely losing the visitors to them. As soon as visitors were allowed to handle the old cameras, it was hard to get them back on track. Therefore, I tried introducing the cameras later on as a surprise for visitors who lingered a bit longer, which seemed to work much better.

This is one of the many things I am learning on my way to the Lates and the Bradford Science Festival. I think I will learn a lot during the events themselves as well. For now, I will get ready for the big days and enjoy a visit to the museum’s partner in Manchester: the National Science and Industry Museum.

The daily life of museum secondment – part 1

Written by Ellen De Korte

It is two more weeks until the Bradford Science Festival. My collection of objects is now complete and the preparation of my text and study material is almost done. In the meantime, I have also become a STEM-ambassador. STEM is an acronym for the combined subjects of Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics. A STEM-ambassador is a volunteer who promotes those subjects in various ways. This can include demonstrations at schools, but it means you can also work with teachers in promoting STEM in schools.

As my research topic is part of psychology, it may seem a bit odd that I have become a STEM-ambassador. Yet, there is quite a bit of STEM involved in my job. For example, if I set up a typical experiment, I have to display the materials I want to show on a computer. Not only is the computer itself an obvious piece of STEM, but the images of materials involve quite a bit of mathematics. For a computer an image is a big table of numbers that represent image colours. Unfortunately, computer monitors do not always display the right colour if you give them a specific number. This means that I have to check the colours that my monitor displays with a special device. On top of that, I have to pay attention to the lighting of the materials I use, because this influences the look of materials as well. These little things involve physics and mathematics (light and the transformation of numbers in light to get colours) and this is not even the data collection and analysis yet (there is a lot of mathematics involved in the latter).

I will not bother you any further with the biology that is involved in my subject, because I have to understand the workings of the eye and the brain as well. Or how our research findings might be used for design of materials (engineering). All I hope, is that it has become clear that STEM is a big part of my job and our daily lives.  

Secondment at the Science and Media Museum

Secondment at the Science and Media Museum

By Ellen De Korte

It has been four weeks since I started my museum secondment at the National Science and Media Museum and there are three more weeks to go until the Bradford Science Festival. I am busy preparing all text and materials for my study. However, the most exciting bit is that I am now testing objects that I have collected from charity shops and colleagues. This resulted in interesting responses. Also, the visitors are happy to try the task that is part of my activity. The next stage is to get everything ready, test the entire activity and pilot data collection.

How do I feel about public engagement? I found that it is one thing to learn to do science and an entirely different thing to communicate about it. Explainers in the museum seem to do it with ease. However, when I tried to do it myself, I found that it is a lot harder than it looks. For example, you have to learn how to get people interested in what you are doing. Moreover, you need to constantly switch gears, because you encounter people from different backgrounds.

Nevertheless, if you manage to draw people in and interact with them, it is a rewarding experience. People are willing to listen and take a little piece of information with them. Also, the skills you learn when doing science communication can be transferred to communicating your work to a specialist audience. Communication to a non-specialist audience teaches you how to quickly pitch and sell your work in simple wording. The pitching and selling skills are very useful for presentations, for example at a conference, too, because this also requires you to shortly pitch your work to people passing by.

All in all, my museum secondment is an entirely different experience. However, it is also an interesting challenge, from which I will have learnt a lot at the end.