Basic aims and working philosophy
of the Exploratory
The Exploratory is designed to introduce and attract children and adults to Science and Technology, with the primary aims of showing people how things around them work and helping to make the scientific way of approaching questions and problems more central in our culture. It should, thus, be a step towards melting the Snow dividing the Two Cultures: Art and Science.
The Exploratory is not a museum, nor is it a school; though, like museums, it should be a valuable resource for schools. It is intended to be a try-it-yourself Science and Technology Centre where children and adults have the opportunity to discover principles of science and how things work, with 'hands-on' interactive working models, demonstrations and simple experiments. Information, advice and help will be provided by captions (written at various levels) and by specially trained explainers (called 'Pilots') who will also look after the 'Plores' and generally see that the Exploratory is running properly.
As the usual museum terms, such as 'exhibit', are too passive for the Exploratory interactive models and hands-on experiments, we have coined the word 'Plore': meaning a model, an experiment, or a problem or whatever to explore. So one explores Plores. Coining some new words appropriate to the aims, should help to reinforce the differences between the Exploratory and a Science Museum.
The Exploratory is not a custodian of historically important or valuable objects, which need protection, so we can dispense with glass cases. We are concerned with principles rather than with things. The Plores, many of which will be specially designed in-house, will be the means for conveying principles of science and how these principles are applied in technology.
Conceptually The Exploratory will start from the observer, and especially the powers and limitations of human perception. This should do something to redress the 'de-humanising' effect of the mathematical sciences which, since the early Seventeenth Century, have for their own good reasons adopted the goal of ’objectivity’ in which observers – ourselves – are as much as possible rejected in favour of various kinds of operationalism. By making the observer – the visitor – primary and the centre from which understanding and appreciation’ starts, we should help to humanise science. The Exploratory should indeed, with its philosophy, become a centre for research into communication and learning; using and developing new techniques, such as micro computers and video discs.
Time travelling through the history of science will not be by viewing collections of original instruments, and other artefacts, but rather by re-enacting experiments with the technology available in previous centuries – to show at first hand the immense if still not generally appreciated significance of technology for science, and also indeed philosophy, from the earliest times to now.
The Exploratory will show how familiar tools and toys of technology work. Also, how they embody principles of science and technology, which are brought to bear on solving problems by human intelligence. A conclusion is that technology is the mother as well as the daughter of invention.
The visitor, whether child or adult, should find the Exploratory stimulating and fun. It will not be like school, as it is not constrained by the need to cover topics exhaustively for exams. It will aim to be more suggestive than complete in any topic; but it will provide knowledge and experience in some ways beyond the range of any school, and so it should be appreciated by children and teachers, as well as parents and the public in general.
By making how things work less mysterious, and making science and science's ways of thinking more generally available and more central in our culture, we hope to increase personal and national confidence and effectiveness surely leading to rich successes as opportunities are created and become visible.
Adapted from: The Exploratory Interactive Science
Centre, Plan for Action 1, February 1983 and The Exploratory Interactive Science
Centre, Plan for Action 2, February 1985.