May 2012

Recap: 1st International Turkish Science Center Conference

Over the past weekend, ALCHEMY studio had the honor and pleasure to deliver the keynote address for the first international Turkish Science Centre Symposium in Bursa Turkey.








While late to the science center movement the people, communities and government of Turkey are enthusiastic and ardent about improving scientific and technological literacy – life long – as their more experienced and long er established brethren in the Americas, Europe and Pacific. Representatives of various municipalities throughout Turkey, as well as educators and university students, discussed implementation, development and operational  issues that they are all experiencing.

An interesting observation from this conference was that these emerging and established science center colleagues are researching, studying and examining what the rest of the world is doing – creating , presenting and publishing papers in a scholarly way.

The references cited in these appers have some very famialiar friends’ names that we all know.

Already our fellow Turkish science center professionals are creating  experiences beyond science centers including science festivals, outreach and science and technological competitions. They have already learned the value of mutiple platforms and mediums in delivering the message and engaging the community.

Meanwhile their future is still filled with challenges. The current spurt of activity is being fueled by a forward thinking initiative by the national government - directed through TUBITAK the national science organization.  From the symposium two of the major challenges that is being grappled with are the follwoing

1. How to set aside the time and process to actually think through in a thoughtful way how to meet the needs of the community. A community that can have widely diverse backgrounds, ages and interests. There is an eagerness to get this done, but this doestake time to be done correctly.

2. Secondly is how to navigate the experience development process and to not just create cooking cutter copies of science centers from Europe, North America or from even with Turkey. While certainly they will draw on that experience, the Turkish culture, history, geography, environment, economy deserve their own unique experiences. Not to mention this is the way to actually develop and create a uniquely Turkish exhibit community as well.

But from the symposium it is clear they understand the challenges. Already an emerging Turkish exhibition production business group is forming as evidenced by the number of them whom came and spoke to us at the symposium. And certainly the representatives of TUBITAK are aware and are working hard on guiding  the process towards a successful outcome.

In conclusion this first gathering was truly both an encouraging and positive sign for the Turkish Science Center conference. Our hosts in Bursa did an excellent job and were gracious and warm. Certainly therTurkish science center movement is on a positive tack. Here at ALCHEMY studio we are excited to be part of it and look forward to seeing this movement flower.

Here are some links to the news converge:


Posted in: Experiences and Museums, News

Tags: ,

2 Responses

Children’s Science Center










ALCHEMY studio has recently begun early schematic design and visioning for the Children’s Science Center in Virginia. A science center/children/s museum hybrid, ALCHEMY studio has begun to provide the first look at what the experience will be like. The illustration here is of the Earth/Energy/Sustainability zone for the institution.

Posted in: News

Tags: , ,

Leave a comment

scale strikes back!







So it would appear that even we as institutions can be become the focus of scale and yes it still is fascinating for all the reasons of the former blog post. At the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) Graduate Exhibition Design Thesis this lovely model of the New York Hall of Science’s Wallace Harrison– designed Great Hall wsa on display. Model done by  Marlene Paufler, graduatee student, of her project the Science of Dreams.

Here the Hand of God comes down to interact with the Great Hall.







God is played by Paul Orselli (eat you heart out Eric Siegel!) Look for more in the near term about the entire FIT graduate event.

Posted in: Experiences and Museums

Tags: , ,

2 Responses


Some recent encounters with several exhibits and experiences have been a reminder of the magic and impact that playing with scale can have on us and is a reminder that this is an important tool in the out “tool box” here at ALCHEMY studio and for other designers.

Scale forces us to reevaluate the importance of the object or the importance of ourselves. We can experience the “impossible.”

The purposes of this discussion refer to the idea of scale reference a parameter of an object’s size. By object we might mean the “artifact” that is the exhibit or we may mean the an environmental piece that sets a context for an exhibition

Here are two recent examples encountered at the Walker Art Center

Making something big:









Folding chair Robert Therrien

Photos: Wayne LaBar and Paul Schmelzer; Walker Art Center blog



Making something small















Maurizio Cattelan Untitled

Photos : Wayne LaBar


Mulling on this and thinking of other successful examples used by other museums such as the giant heart at the Franklin Institute, the images we see on in IMAX and giant screen films or on the small scale   the model railroads at the Carnegie Science Center, the Lego amusement worlds found over the globe it – what is it that attracts us to this and often makes these experiences memorable and extraordinary.  In addition, there are times when this fails. Numerous are the examples of large “walk through human bodies” that never seem to rise above a feeling of “fake” or “schlock.” Detail , quality and immersiveness are key

So some observation on successful uses of scale.


  • Allows us to appreciate detail and form we normally can’t see or ignore
  • Allows us to explore places physically that are normally inaccessible
  • Allows us to reevaluate the importance of the object or the importance of ourselves
  • Allows us to experience the ” impossible”, the unusual, the imaginary
  • Allows us possibly to harken back to our childhood, as adults, and re-experience the discovery of scale

What other ideas come to mind about the power of these playful, thoughtful and imaginative uses of scale?

Posted in: Experiences and Museums

Tags: , , ,

Leave a comment

Inspiration – Solace

As part of looking and thinking about bringing together different medium, one is always looking for things to inspire and spark imagination. To find people or ideas that are extraordinary in some way.

The latest is the work of Nicky Assmann who has created Solace – one might call it the the most iconic bubble exhibit we have seen! Wow !!

Watch the videos


And here is an interview with artist from Fast Company




Posted in: Alchemy Today, Experiences and Museums

Tags: ,

Leave a comment

AAM 2012 Final Thoughts



So the AAM conference has come and gone. The museums, science center, and cultural organizations of Minneapolis and St. Paul were gracious and wonderful hosts. Now that the dust has settled and we have recovered from the last of the all night parties, here are some observations in no particular order.

-          Walker Art Center with its Open Field Initiative – Awesome! Where else can I get a hula hoop and give it whirl at a moment’s notice on a sea of grass. A model for community engagement.

-          Art in science centers – a growing trend. And this is not just science based art but that certainly will be its major theme. Juried show opening at the NYSci upcoming

-          National Association for Museum Exhibition (N.A.M.E.) threw a great party at the Foshay Tower. Beautiful art deco space at the top and the most hidden with interesting museum at the top of the tower. Minneapolis style Empire State Building observation deck at the very top.

“Science centers are often scared to say what we must do concerning issues facing our planet, artists and art have no fear.”

-          Generational discussion continued at the conference it still feels that there are some tensions between Generation X and “grey beards” in the museum field or perhaps just miscommunication.

-          Speaking of generations it was great to see all of the students who came to the show. It’s nice to see that working in the museum field is of interest to so many.

-          The game experience theme is another experience thread weaving itself through a variety of medium. It may be a key way portables are used in museums. Shout out to Minnesota’s Historical Society’s “Reinventing the Field Trip for the 21st Century.”

-         The above  great quote (from hastily written notes) from Walter Staveloz of ASTC



Posted in: Experiences and Museums

Tags: , , ,

Leave a comment

Gaming in the Museum

Gaming in the Museum Monday, the session titled Gaming: Creating Connections to the Collection offered some fascinating and intriguing in sights to the use of gaming to add an entire another dimension to the how to interact with the museum.

Primarily what was of interest was what is possible in the museum. The institutions that spoke were the Minnesota Historical Society, The Getty and the Smithsonian. Here are some high level observations that came out of this session:

  • Interactions within the game can include everything from scavenger hunts, performing for staff, to recording one’s impressions. There appears to be a wide range of possibilities of what can be included in the overall “storyline” of the game.
  • Games offer an engaging way for school trips to share a visit and for what happens in the museum to be brought back literally to the classroom and even the home – Requires portable technology (iOS devices the preferred choice due to open source software) which allows for the large variety of interactions. People, including kids are comfortable with it.
  • Gaming in the museum appears to point out, highlight or make apparent new needs and well as short comings in the wayfinding of an institution.

 It breaks down the traditional meaning making of the physical space.

  • Gaming also causes tensions within staffs at times between more traditional or comfortable ways of imaging how visitors should use the museum
  • 21st Century skills appear to be fostered through the use of gaming, skills such as stalking to strangers and teamwork that at times are hard at a singular exhibit in an exhibition
  • Kids like to record audio

Posted in: Experiences and Museums

Tags: , ,

Leave a comment