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Alas, science museums in Korea have proven disappointingly bland (in a word, meh), although perhaps I had such high expectations. Designing for interactivity in a conservative Confucian society poses some challenges, perhaps one that can be easily seen by someone from the outside. But there are pockets of joyful wonder in the sometimes poorly lit rooms that reeked of overuse of audio-visual media and text. My favorite parts of the Seoul National Science Museum are in the second floor. Specifically, rainbow-colored hands wave hello at the wax station where you can cast your own hands for 8,000 won:

Rainbow hands

Rainbow hands

It’s awesome to see Marie Curie flashed on a screen. After being here for just a few weeks, seeing visible recognition for any female with strong, intellectual, and independent roles in such a rigid Confucian system as Korea’s make me do cartwheels inside (and sometimes, outside).

Marie Curie!

Marie Curie!

In the middle of a set of dinosaur eggs, one in the middle turned out to be mechanical and opened up to reveal a yawning dinosaur:

Hello, world.

Hello, world.

And in the enormous Gwacheon National Science Museum, my favorite parts were on the outside, such as the Funny Bicycling Center:

funny bikes

funny bikes

There are bikes with odd parts, bikes built for two, and bikes you can ride sideways:

riding a bike sideways

riding a bike sideways

This would have been a perfect bike in graduate school.

This would have been a perfect bike in graduate school.

The Narae-Seobuk (“the bell of hope”) is a traditional Korean bell made out of 3,080 speakers—quite a beautiful symbol of art, science, and tradition:

Narae-Seobuk. The Bell of Hope.

Narae-Seobuk. The Bell of Hope.

One of the best things I learned since moving back to Manila is The Mind Museum.

The Mind Museum at Taguig. Image via The Mind Museum’s Facebook page

It was a great day to reconnect with the city, and it was an even better surprise when I discover that one of my former capoeira classmates now works there as an exhibit manager.

The building itself is a gorgeous piece of architecture led by Ed Calma (featured in the December 2011 / January 2012 issue of Fast Company). It is a significant addition to the commercial, artistic, and residential landscape of Fort Bonifacio.

There are five galleries in two floors spread over 5,000 square-meters:

  1. The Story of the Universe: Its Beginning and Majesty
  2. The Story of the Earth: Its Story Across the Breadth of Time
  3. The Story of Life: The Exuberant Varieties of Life
  4. The Story of the Atom: The Strange World of the Very Small
  5. The Story of Technology: The Showcase of Human Ingenuity
It’s such a great example of interactivity in a science museum. The major theme is nature in scale. Visitors can go through a human brain, see a skeleton of a T-rex up close, and come across scientific concepts by experiencing them. It has been open since March, but already has gained visits from locals and tourists alike.
Maribel Garcia, curator, emphasized the importance of scientific correctness and emotionally grabbing the viewers—an opinion that   I share, and one that triggered this “science meets art” trajectory in my life.
Visit The Mind Museum site.