Families rejoice – the children’s gallery at MOSI re-opens this weekend. Matthew Hull catches up on the latest developments at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry
The highlight of my childhood trips to Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry, better known as MOSI, was invariably a visit to Experiment!, the interactive gallery designed especially for children. I was obviously not alone in my enthusiasm as Experiment! attracted an estimated 400,000 visitors a year. Recently, though, many visitors have been disappointed to discover that the exhibition has been closed for refurbishment. The museum’s Head of Business Development, Terry Hudghton, is well aware of the hole that has left in the MOSI experience.
“Experiment! is tried, tested and very much loved. It has been sorely missed while it’s been undergoing its present transformation,” he acknowledges, “but I can promise that it will be bigger and better than ever before when it returns this weekend.” The refurbished gallery is part of MOSI’s £9 million redevelopment, which also includes a new learning centre, a conference centre, restaurant, cafe and gift shop as well as the forthcoming Revolution Manchester gallery.
The all-new Experiment! will be separated into five different zones, each examining an aspect of science and industry. Old favourites return, such as Lift A Mini, which demonstrates how even the smallest kids can raise an entire car off the ground solely by using gears, and the Tornado Machine. There will be 20 brand-new interactive exhibits, too, including one where a skeleton rides a bike to show which joints are at work when we cycle. You’ll also be able to see how many of the city’s homes can be lit by using rubbish as power, and measure your reactions against the speed of light or the flapping of a fly’s wings. Most of the interactive exhibits in the gallery have been created from recycled plastic as part of the Making Waste Work section, and are part of a trail across the site.
Revolution Manchester, meanwhile, is set to open in the New Year and promises to bring the museum experience bang up to date, with breathtaking digital interpretation and games alongside intriguing collection items that are on display for the first time. A new interactive ‘orientation’ gallery will help visitors navigate the five listed buildings and 16 galleries that make up MOSI. Its ‘media wall’, constructed from 50 monitor screens, will dominate Revolution Manchester and will be one of the first things to greet visitors to the museum.
“It’s a completely fresh concept, so we’re a bit nervous,” Hudghton admits. “But we think it’s going to be mind-blowing. It will provide an interactive taster of all the elements that make up MOSI. I can’t say too much but there will a wing-warping exhibit and visitors will be able to virtually produce their own energy and then compete with other visitors to use it. It really is the manifestation of the whole spirit of the museum, bringing science, technology and innovation to life.
“People receive information in so many different ways now, through video and social media, for example, and we wanted to work these things into the new galleries,” he says. “The traditional placards and the collections will remain, of course, but we want to reflect the technological achievement celebrated in the museum in these new exhibits.
“I’ve actually just been down to see the work today and it’s very exciting,” he says, sounding genuinely excited by the prospect of the new galleries. So perhaps the Experiment! gallery will now be the highlight of my adult trips to MOSI.
Experiment! re-opens this weekend at MOSI (11 December). The main museum remains open during redevelopment works. Images (top to bottom): Chris Foster, courtesy MOSI.