Back in 2014, planning began on this year’s spring exhibit. The initial idea was to present infographs on a variety of metals.
When we began designing the exhibit however, we quickly realized the original concept was not going to achieve the goals of the exhibit. We wanted more interactivity and more displays than an infograph-based exhibit would allow.
Brainstorming began on how what shape the metals exhibit should take. High on the list of objectives was presenting metals not so readily recognized as metals. A display of reactive metals was conceptualized, but scrapped due to the time and budget limits. A second concept identified was the importance of metals to our health. Rather than focusing part of the exhibit on health however, we decided to incorporate this concept throughout.
The timeline from last year’s ‘Best of Britannia’ exhibit proved popular, so the idea of another timeline was also discussed. Presenting a timeline on the uses of metals however would have mirrored part of our permanent display in the Visitor Centre. Surely we could do better than just listing off the metal ages again. We believe we did. Metalution presents the evolution of our uses of metals not by age, but by type, with an eye to the future.
Building Metalution was the most demanding part of this exhibit. Not because of its complexity, but because of our desire to minimize the environmental footprint of the exhibit. Materials were selected and assembled for their re-usability, which complicated the installation methods as we needed a method that allows the panels to be put up and taken down repeatedly. In the end, we achieved this goal with only one major challenge – getting the panels to align properly. Installing the panels took the better part of a day.
The middle displays, called ‘Compound Interest’ and ‘Which Metals are Most Metallic?’ are what took the place of the originally proposed reactive metals display. As part of our effort to reduce waste from this exhibit, these displays will be re-purposed in our Earth Sciences Learning Zone after the exhibit closes.
As for spotlighting selected metals, the infographs gave way to panels and displays that focus on history and uses. While far less information is presented than in the original concept, that which is presented still conveys the significance of the metals presented.
So where is the interactivity?
Kids of all ages can ‘Test your metals’ to discover some of the properties of metals. Everyone is also invited to share their opinions on the future of metals, including whether or not artefacts should be preserved or melted down for the metals they are made of.
An exhibit on metals would not be complete without looking at sustainability. For the kids, we have displays on renewable and non-renewable resources. For the adults, we present a challenge to our thinking on resource usage.
With ‘What Use Are Metals to Me?’ we believe we have successfully tied together the key concepts of metals in a way that is engaging for all ages.
Visit the Museum between now and August 31 to discover more about metals.
View the photos below to have a peek behind the scenes at the exhibit's installation.