We visited the Norsk teknisk museum today, first science museum in six months! And not a great museum to get back on the horse with. Here are our standard categories.
1. The Museum must engage and excite – The museum has clearly been around a long time. Large parts of it are sets of objects (lots of old cars) that have been lovingly collected. Not very well displayed, though. Other parts are sets of exhibitions around themes that were clearly built with sponsorship at particular times and never touched again. Not a great thing to do with a computing exhibit (particularly when it ends with a speculation about what might happen in the year 2000). The hands on section wasn’t bad, but had the air of being put together by rote. The best part was a game trying to balance the energy needs of a mythical country with different types of energy sources (oil, hydrothermal, etc). 6/10.
2. The exhibits must work and not baffle – I was surprised how little scientific explanation there was for many of the working science in the hands on centre. While I don’t read Norwegian, the length of explanation wasn’t much more than the english, which was fairly minimal. Most exhibits that were intended to worked, but didn’t explain the science well. And even the modern sections were quite static displays. Our boys had the most fun learning how to use a rotary dial telephone 6/10.
3. A play area should not substitute for teaching science in the museum. This is hard to judge, as there wasn’t much “science play” area. Our boys did have a great time with some building materials (with excellently working wheels). They didn’t learn any new science to speak of – the classic balloon on a stream of air was not explained at all. 6/10.
4. Televisions and computers are no longer, in themselves, cool, or more generally, everything should be up to date. This was the worst aspect. The exhibit on computers that ended in the mid 90s. The exhibit on phones that invited you to try out a mobile phone. Each exhibit had the air of being developed, and then left in aspic. Technology gets out of date quickly, and it shows when you don’t update things. The oil exhibit seemed a lot better, but that could be because I don’t know all that much about oil technology. 5/10.
5. Museums should tell a story (I’m going to be a harsh marker here). I was surprised at how few specifically Norwegian exhibits there were. Partly because Norway was quite a poor country until relatively recently (in scientific discovery terms). But I think they could have made more of the technology that Norway is famous for – for me at least, that’s oil and gas, and forestry. 5/10.
This museum reminded me a lot of the Powerhouse in Sydney. Some really interesting exhibits, if you took the time to read carefully, but lots of bits not working, and not enough explanation for children – adults are needed to mediate the experience.
And for the practical things:
Cafe factor: A nice cafe at the front – reasonable sweet food, and espresso coffee (and the usual Norwegian non espresso for 60% of the price).
Expense: Expensive for a science museum, at 220 Kr for a family (that’s just under A$40). But Norway is very expensive for everything, so that wasn’t surprising.
Public transport: Lots of different public transport options from the centre of Oslo – about 20 minutes by train, or you can catch a bus or tram.