Elements

6 Mar 2014 — 28 Feb 2016 at Ulster Museum in Belfast, United Kingdom

The Rosetta Nebula, T. A. Rector, B. Wolpa, M. Hanna (AURA/NOAO/NSF)
The Rosetta Nebula, T. A. Rector, B. Wolpa, M. Hanna (AURA/NOAO/NSF)
11 JUN 2014

A major new science exhibition based on the periodic table is now open at the Ulster Museum.

Entitled ‘Elements’, this unique exhibition explores how some 90 natural elements, including carbon and hydrogen make up everything that we can see and feel around us – and on into the universe.

The exhibition, the first of its kind in the UK, explores a series of themes that encompass life and death, wealth and fashion, art and technology, colour and light. Visitors will be able to discover where elements were created, how they occur naturally, what they look like, how we use them and why they can be dangerous.

‘Elements’ is supported by the Foyle Foundation, Friends of the Ulster Museum and Northern Ireland’s leading energy supplier Power NI and parent company Viridian Group.

Commenting on Power NI’s sponsorship of the Elements exhibition, Ian Thom, Chief Executive of the Viridian Group, said “We are pleased to be supporting this excellent exhibition as part of the company’s wider commitment to community involvement. We believe it is an important exhibition which will make a real contribution to encouraging young people to see the relevance of science in a fun way and we are pleased to add the Group’s backing to that.”

The exhibition shows that behind much of our modern lifestyle lie elements that most people have never heard of - gallium and terbium in electric lights; tantalum - the rarest non-radioactive element in the Universe - in mobile phones, and indium in touch screens.

Visitors will also be able to explore how poisonous elements, such as lead, mercury and arsenic were used in fashion, cosmetics, and even medicine until surprisingly recently, and how metals more commonly used in rocket nozzles and jet engines, such as titanium and niobium, are now being turned into beautiful jewellery.

Exhibition highlights include a piece of the first successful transatlantic copper cable, from 1866, a sparkplug tipped with radioactive polonium, and a spectacular array of coloured glassware tinted by various elements.

Curator of Palaeontology for National Museums Northern Ireland, Dr Mike Simms, who curated the exhibition said; "It was inspired by a book by Theodore Gray, in which the relevance of elements to all of us is beautifully described. My hope is that visitors young and old will be similarly inspired by this exhibition, the first of its kind anywhere in the UK, and that they will enjoy exploring the elements which are the 'building blocks' of everything around us.”

He added, “This free exhibition will appeal strongly to families and young adults and will support the delivery of our STEM agenda for schools.”

Nigel Pope, Vice-chairman of Friends of the Ulster Museum said “The Friends of the Ulster Museum are delighted to be supporting "Elements". We are sure that this exhibition will appeal to a very wide range of ages, and we wish all those involved great success.”

The Elements exhibition is part of National Museums Northern Ireland’s wider STEM programme and will be accompanied by a series of events in the Ulster Museum, both for schools and for other visitors. These will include STEM careers days, workshops, science shows and special talks.