Our exhibitions evolve as our institution evolves. Since Copernicus was first opened, “On the Move” has been one of our most popular galleries. It’s also the first gallery we decided to revamp and improve. The changes reflect the directions of Copernicus’ dynamic development: creating exhibits, designing interactions and involving visitors in the entire process. You can now discover the results for yourselves – the new “On the Move” gallery opened on 3 March 2016.
The new gallery proudly presents 80 interactive exhibits. Some are brand new ones made at our workshops, others we have brought in from some of the finest designers in the world. Certain existing exhibits have been refurbished and brought up-to-date. The new gallery provides more opportunities for visitors to conduct hands-on experiments and draw their own conclusions – perhaps even discovering more than the designers ever anticipated. At the same time, they feature an enchanting sort of precision. We’ve kept the use of multimedia to a minimum, since we feel that constant exposure to electronic stimuli is causing people to start to suffer from a lack of real experiences. It’s rare that we stop to admire the beauty of nature and ponder the workings of natural phenomena. We have created a space where everyone can make discoveries. Our exhibits speak for themselves; they allow visitors to search, scrutinize, sometimes make mistakes – and genuinely experience the principles of the natural world.
We are striving to improve not just individual exhibits, but also the logical structure of the entire space. The exhibits have been divided into three thematic groups. For example, finding common components of water waves, sound waves, light waves and even ‘Mexican waves’ (created by audiences at sports events) isn’t easy, but by conducting dozens of experiments you can see different examples and begin to understand the phenomenon on a more complex level – something which is impossible to achieve by simply reading textbook definitions.
“We are not fond of traditional divisions into maths, physics, the humanities and so on. While many people learn quickly by repetition, we do get very bored when, for instance, we have to write out the same thing a hundred times. Each of our exhibits provides new stimuli, while at the same time also invoking things visitors learned about at an earlier experimental station,” says Anna Lipińska, Director of Exhibitions. “And we don’t think it’s possible to highlight each and every aspect of a specific phenomenon in a single exhibit.” Thematic groups encourage visitors to connect the dots, making it easier to remember things and gain a practical understanding. For example, “Magnetic clouds”, “Funky fluids” and “Magnetic bridge” are all exhibits demonstrating the lines of magnetic fields in different ways. “Magnetic clouds” focuses on visual observations. At the “Funky fluids” exhibit, you can observe as well as shape a magnetic field. And “Magnetic bridge” provides an opportunity to experience magnetic field lines physically.
The new “On the Move” gallery presents exhibits in the following groups: Electricity and Magnetism, Waves and Vibrations, Gyroscopes and Inertia, Fluids (Liquids and Gases), Simple Machines, Cosmos, and Chaotic Phenomena.
We aim to introduce similar groups across all our exhibitions.
You can see straight away that the exhibits have changed. Previously they were more massive and brightly coloured; now they are all lighter, encased in plywood with elements of steel, glass and Plexiglas. The author of the concept is Emilia Walędzik, designer of the entire gallery. We wanted her to focus the visitors’ attention on the content rather than format of each exhibit, leading her to limit her use of materials. They are familiar and tactile, rather than brand new and surprising. “There are already enough stimuli. We didn’t want the exhibition to look like a playground or a school physics lab.”
All levers and buttons are now yellow, making it easier to navigate each exhibit. The instructions have also been updated to be more transparent, starting with an illustrated guide followed by a description of each phenomenon.
Some exhibits are the same as in the previous exhibition, simply with a new setting – for example “Fountains in glass” demonstrating acoustic vibrations, which used to be bright green. Some needed to be separated; “Light and sound” and “Mouth radio” were previously placed too close and interfered with one another. In yet others, we had to solve certain technical problems.
Much of the Copernicus building is light and airy. This means that galleries are very bright in spring and summer, and the light changes throughout the day. However, certain exhibits need to be presented in the dark. Now, at the centre of the “On the Move” gallery is a blue pavilion resembling the distinctive Heavens of Copernicus Planetarium. The interior is shrouded in dusk, and holds exhibits which need to be operated or are most striking when viewed in semi-darkness, such as the fog chamber. “Before, when the gallery was filled with dazzling colours, it was difficult for visitors to work out which part of the exhibition they were at,” says Anna Lipińska. “The blue construction serves as an orientation point.”
We have created a rest zone in the exhibition space, where visitors can stop and take a break before carrying on. “We have been observing our guests and drawing conclusions,” stresses Anna Lipińska. “We noticed that visitors, especially younger kids, like to gather together in a designated space. Now they can sit down on benches or carpets in different shades of blue. They can take a breather or have a look at books from a library.”