The Manchester Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) is rich with original, “world first” exhibits from Manchester’s past, present and future. We were asked by MOSI to design their new Revolution Manchester Gallery – a 20,000 sq ft space inside a Grade 1 listed warehouse on the site of the world’s first railway station and the main entrance gallery to the Museum itself. Our main challenge was to make their unique content relevant to an audience of young, old, novice and expert alike. Most of all we wanted to inspire younger visitors to realise their potential as inventors and pioneers of the future.
Museums today are competing for audiences’ attention in an increasingly media saturated arena, where its easier to Google a subject matter rather than research and experience it in real life. Museums aren’t competing with other museums – they are competing with the web, with gaming consoles, 3D cinema, theme parks etc – and so need to lose their dusty, tired stereotype. With this gallery we’ve used technology in varied ways to tell the story behind their unique original historical artefacts, to bring relevance to the visitor and make the visitor part of the story.
We also wanted the gallery experience to live on beyond the physical gallery itself. With the Revolution Manchester barcode card, visitors can register, have their photo taken, leave a vox pop video and then go on to activate all the interactives in the gallery. A personal “digital scrapbook” is then compiled on the Revolution Manchester website, accessed by their personal bar code number, where the museum can link them to other areas of interest with discounts and offers to increase repeat visits.
As they enter the gallery, visitors are given a barcode card, which they scan on one of the 15 touch-screen registration posts. They have their photo taken, leave their email address and are asked what areas are they most interested in seeing on their visit. They can also leave a vox-pop movie telling of their ‘Manchester story’. Their photo will then go up onto the main centrepiece of the gallery – the Revolution Sculpture – a 3 storey high digital chandelier hung in the gallery’s atrium space. The sculpture tells the story of Manchester’s Industrial, Scientific and Media Revolution – from 1781 to today, featuring famous pioneers and historic milestones. Visitors’ photos appear across the sculpture’s 24 LCD screens, next to images of pioneers such as Alan Turing, James Joule and Richard Arkwright – making them part of the story. A photo will be taken of their face on the sculpture and saved to their digital scrapbook.
Their vox pop movie then becomes part of the Revolution Media Wall – one of the UK’s largest indoor media screens – an array of 50 high-definition bezeless LCD panels – forming an animated backdrop to the space. Here they will see their story and others like theirs in a mosaic pattern across the wall. They can also watch special motion graphic sequences telling the story of the gallery and its links to the wider museum as a whole. As museum’s across the country are coming under increased financial pressure from the recent budget cuts, we designed the gallery space so that it could be hired out for corporate events, making it a revenue generating resource for the museum. The Media Wall becomes a unique backdrop to this as we designed it to be able to support standard 16:9 presentations as well as our bespoke 4 x HD animated sequences.
The gallery is then split into 6 different zones, the first of which being Manchester’s transport Story. Here they can interact with a full-size replica of the world’s first closed cabin monoplane – the AVRO F – using their barcode card to illuminate the inside workings of the plane and also experience what its like to fly using our wing warping flying game. We created an interactive sculptural model of the plane. Visitors can twist the wings to steer a 3D animated AVRO F through a series of obstacles. Your time is recorded on a high score list and saved to your personal site.
The next zone covers Manchester’s rich computing history, featuring a replica of the world’s first stored program computer – the 1948 Baby computer. Visitor’s can learn all about this huge machine using one of the world’s latest computers – the Apple iPad. We created an app where you can play a binary code memory game and also create your own randomly generated love letter – just as the Ferranti Mark 1 scientists used to do – and send it to your loved one via email directly from the iPads.
From James Joule to the Manchester Bobber, the city has continued to break new boundaries in the understanding and production of Energy – our next zone in the gallery. The centrepiece of this circular display room is a multi-user touch table where visitors can create their own ZETA plasma ring and find out how this nuclear fission experiment almost changed the world.
Behind the Media Wall, Cottonopolis is the story of Manchester’s cotton industry Here, and throughout the other zones in the gallery, we’ve created a series motion graphic pieces exploring MOSI’s vast photographic archive. With Short Form Film Company we also created a number of interview film pieces of leading Manchester Scientists working in related fields today.
The final zone focuses on the story of the Structure of Matter. This “invisible science” highlights Manchester’s advances in microscopy and mass spectrometry. We created an interactive scanning table revealing the hidden beauty within everyday objects. Using fidicual coded pictures, visitors can examine electron microscope photographs at different resolutions and also try and guess what the mystery objects could be from their microscope images.
From the 30ft high of the Revolution Sculpture, to the unique curved diorama of the Media Wall, we hope the Revolution Manchester Gallery will position MOSI as one of the country’s leading science museums and tourist attractions –celebrating its rich historical past and embracing its digital media future. Most of all we hope it will inspire kids coming to the museum to be the pioneers and scientists of the future.