|Chemistry in European museums
CHEMistry for Life
Over the last two centuries, chemistry has changed our daily lives more than any other of the sciences. Chemistry makes our world more colourful, more efficient, more reliable and safer. Pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, toiletries and bodycare products, airbags and brake fluid - they're all chemical products. Of all the natural sciences, this is the only one to have given rise to an entire industry - in Europe alone, approx. 1.7 million people are currently employed in the chemical industry. Without doubt, chemistry will go on into the 21st century as the key science within newly evolving areas of knowledge and interdisciplinary research.
At the same time, however, no other science is connected with more bad emotions, refusal and anxiety across wide sectors of society. During a conference held by the European Collaborative for Science, Industry and Technology Exhibitions - ECSITE for short - in November 1993, Wolf Peter Fehlhammer, general director of the Deutsches Museum in Munich, and Richard Piani, president of the Fondation La Villette-Enterprises and one-time manager with the chemical corporation Rhône-Poulenc, thought long and hard about how to combat this negative emotions towards chemistry, frequently based on ignorance and misunderstanding.
The object of their discussions was to develop suitable measures designed to break down people's fears and promote their trust across a broad spectrum of public opinion. Scientific principles and objective information need to be put across clearly and accessibly. Who better to meet this need than the science centres and technology museums all over Europe? It is the independence of these institutions and their fundamentally educational mission to explain and communicate technology and natural science as outstanding cultural achievements which make them such an excellent setting for this task. Not least their attendance figures suggest that they are an obvious choice. Every year more than twenty million people visit the science centres and technology museums of Europe. At the same time, these museums work closely with schools and teachers, helping to ensure that interest and enthusiasm for the natural sciences is aroused among millions of young people.
In the autumn of 1994, representatives from 15 science centres and technology museums came from 13 countries at the invitation of the Deutsches Museum to take part in a workshop in Munich. They debated - and sometimes argued - as to how chemistry could be presented in museums as attractively, clearly and objectively as possible. The museums which participated joined forces under the umbrella of ECSITE and worked for three years to meet this challenge. The project and the results of Phase 1 were presented to the public for the first time as CHEMistry for Life on 27 November 1997 in Brussels.
CHEMistry for Life - an overview
Key dates for the project so far:
Press Releases (posted on CEFIC Web site):
The idea behind CHEMistry for Life was that there should be a joint campaign mounted across Europe by all the science centres and technology museums, aiming to offset the negative image of chemistry in the public eye. A more accurate and more objective assessment of the opportunities and risks presented by chemistry is to be achieved through refurbishing and restyling of museum chemistry sections, supported by experiments, demonstrations and the hands-on involvement of visitors themselves. The appropriate media and measures are being developed and financed by the museums which have signed up for the CHEMistry for Life project and by the chemical industry.
CHEMistry for Life is a joint initiative mounted by 16 European science centres and technology museums under the umbrella of ECSITE and CISU (Chemical Industry Association for Scientific Understanding), a collaboration within the European Chemical Industry Council CEFIC.
This is the first time that European museums and industry have joined forces to present a collaborative project on this scale. Quite apart from the political example set by this European cooperation, CHEMistry for Life opens up new opportunities for synergetic effects and cross-fertilisation. Through this project, these museums are making a crucial contribution to cultural and scientific education in the Europe of this new millennium.
The Museum of the Chemical Industry, Widnes, UK
New chemistry sections at the science centres and
technology museums can only be successful if they are designed in line with the latest
insights into educational museum presentation and if they include attractive and
imaginative hands-on and multimedia features. But the development of interactive systems
is expensive and time-consuming.
|Eight global themes
are at the heart of this new approach and put across its basic philosophy. In fact, in new
chemistry sections at some museums, they replace the division into organic, inorganic and
chemical engineering which has been usual up to now. The following eight slogans strike up
an evocative and emotive direct link to everyday life, they involve, inform and clear up
You are chemistry!
These global messages formulated by W.P. Fehlhammer, R. Jackson
and J. Wagensberg are to be put across imaginatively, wittily and convincingly with the
help of the planned 50 new experiments, computer programmes, shows etc..
|All finished products are shown and explained in the "Virtual Gallery"
Products are grouped into 4 categories:
· hands-on interactive exhibit,
The information if an exhibit and/or a corresponding production manual is deliverable is given in the Virtual Gallery. Prices for finished products and production manuals are shown in categories which refer to the following list:
Category A : 1 - 5.000 Euro
The whole set of products including finished products of (list - under development) and full manuals of (list - under development) can be purchased for about (Price - under development)
For actual and precise price information for finished products and/or production manuals: Please contact the project manager or the individual producing museums.
|Chemistry, the science of the next millennium
Chemistry will undoubtedly remain the central science in the 21st century. After bringing to mankind the fundamental discoveries which have changed our daily life for the last two centuries, it will now be at the heart of a new scientific era, where many sciences will merge and cross-fertilize for the benefit of innovation. Thus, chemical creativity and knowledge will be needed everywhere.
However, this science, fascinating as it may be, fails, like some others, to attract young people, and suffers from a lack of information and therefore of understanding and enthusiasm from the general public. If Europe is to prosper in the 21st century and therefore provide the wealth and jobs which we will surely need in a world driven by global competition, it needs to cope fully with the challenges of scientific innovation, especially in chemistry. For that, it will need both to attract young and creative people, the scientists of tomorrow, and to drive popular support and balanced understanding.
The "CHEMistry for Life" project, which aims to provide a step change in the way that chemistry is presented to the public, in those wonderful and essential places that are scientific museums, is an essential one. It will provide an excellent vehicle for helping people of all ages to experience the pleasure and excitement of scientific discovery.
I commend this project to you with my full support.
Science for Life
Science is the dominant culture of the 20th Century and is set to become even more dominant in the 21st. However, as we become ever more dependent on scientific and engineering advances, society appears to become less-and-less aware of it and how they have freed the human race from the slavery of existing merely to survive. As the next century approaches, the need thus becomes ever more urgent that everyone should have some deeper understanding of the way scientific principles underpin their daily life. In fact the intrinsic cultural nature of these principles, as well as the way they have been applied for the benefit of society need to be revealed. Judicious use of these advances in the future is necessary and this will only occur if some key scientific principles are understood at every level of society.
Unfortunately traditional methods of education appear to be failing in spite of sterling efforts by our teachers. The sheer complexity of science and technology today, as well as the lure of alternative, often superficially exciting, areas are some of the problems. Chemistry, the discipline central to our socio-economic environment is suffering as much if not more than others and is a perfect example of the need for urgent measures to develop, in collaboration with schools and teachers, better interactive, balanced and personally tailored approaches to education.
The wonderful new "experience" centres and science museums, which are blossoming across Europe, are providing an important component in the solution to these problems. They work closely with schools and science teachers thereby ensuring that millions of young people are being given a real taste for science and enthusiasm to learn more is being fostered. The prime purpose of this European project, which has been created by a consortium formed by the museums and by the chemical industry, in collaboration with the European Commission, is to help these centres and museums to provide the very best experience of science possible.
It must be obvious to any intelligent person from the plethora of serious problems facing the world today that our very survival in the 21st century will depend on a quantum leap in real understanding of science and technology by anyone in a position of any responsibility. Only a crash programme in science education can now help and I am certain that this exciting "CHEMistry for Life" programme will play a major role in this crucial process.
|This innovative project illustrates the joint efforts
of the Science Museums (ECSITE - European Collaborative for Science, Industry and
Technology Exhibitions) and the chemical industry (CISU - Chemical Industry Association
for Scientific Understanding), in collaboration with the European Commission, to encourage
responsible citizenship, not only based on knowledge and understanding but also on a real
commitment to science, technology, research and technological development.
European Science Centres and Museums of today have a very important role as innovative cultural institutions, communicating to more than 20 million visitors per year, and as a basis of work for thousands of schools all over Europe. From an independent position and with the communication technologies of tomorrow, they will make a significative contribution to the European culture and science education in the next millennium.
Indeed the advantages of the European dimension of the project are numerous:
Because of its pioneering content, the project will also, as a long term spin-off effect, promote a much stronger collaboration among European Science Centres and Museums in the future.
|For further information about the project please
Dr. Ulrich Kernbach
tel: + 49 (0) 89 2179 476