Issue Date: April 23, 2004
NEW SCIENCE MUSEUM OPENS IN WASHINGTON, D.C.
A new science museum operated by the National Academy of Sciences is opening on April 23 in Washington, D.C. Exhibits at the Marian Koshland Science Museum (http://www.koshland-science-museum.org) are inspired by scientific topics explored in NAS reports. The exhibits invite visitor participation and interaction in an effort to present science and related public policy issues in an interesting and accessible way.
The museum was developed through a gift to NAS from University of California, Berkeley, biochemistry professor Daniel Koshland. It honors his wife of 52 years, immunologist and educator Marian E. Koshland, who died from lung cancer in 1997 at age 76. The director of the museum is Patrice L. Legro, who was formerly director of philanthropy services at NAS.
The museum includes three exhibits. "Wonders of Science" is a permanent exhibit that includes an introductory film and animations. Its content will be updated periodically. Two other exhibits will each be on view for about two years and will then travel to other museums to make way for newly developed presentations. The current temporary exhibits are "Global Warming Facts & Our Future," covering topics such as temperature change, carbon dioxide emissions, and sea-level rise, and "Putting DNA to Work," which highlights use of DNA in criminal forensics, disease diagnosis, and other areas.
The museum—which charges admission to help support its educational and public programming ($5 for adults; $3 for seniors, active-duty military personnel, and students)—could face a challenge in Washington, where there are many free museums competing for visitors' attention, including two large science-related museums operated by the Smithsonian Institution. However, the Koshland Museum's high level of interactivity and its timely public policy orientation are factors in its favor.
"The effort is to show Academy policies and good science at a level that the public will not only understand but also consider fun," Koshland said at a press briefing prior to the opening. "Some of you will go there and get a chance to find out how many of your genes are in common with Einstein or a monkey or a weed plant. You'll also be able to find a criminal by using DNA and to stop an epidemic of SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome]. We hope to show how science is relevant to the general public and your everyday lives."
A focus group "of high school students that came through complained that they only had an hour and they really didn't have enough time to enjoy it," Koshland added. "That's the kind of complaint we really like."
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