brains (and other sciencey things) in manchester

The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester had an exhibition on brains during the later half of last year, and as human biology enthusiasts, we planned for months to go see it. It had to be, however, at an ideal time to avoid the crowds we despise so much — that is, not during summer vacation or half-term or Christmas break — so we ended up going in early December. Lucas was really interested in going too, so we went on his day off. Interestingly and coincidentally, on the day we went, he ran into people from his department’s psychology society, who were also there to see the exhibition, which he’d suggested to them previously.

From what I did manage to take in, I thought it was a pretty good exhibition. Though she said she was interested, Raspberry seemed to jump from one thing to another rather quickly, making it difficult to really get absorbed into the exhibition. We took a break to check out the kids’ interactive area and also to have some lunch in the picnic area within the very cold air and space gallery, but that didn’t really help her focus any better on it. Ah well. Lucas enjoyed the exhibition, but said he wished there was more scientific information. I think his expectations were built on the fact that the exhibition was put on by a science museum. Personally though, I liked that it was a blend of science and art, as well as historical information (Phineas Gage, anyone?), as you’d hardly get such a mix at a science museum.

We also checked out the Ice Lab, which featured architecture in Antarctica, and it was rather amazing to see a video of a structure built into an iceberg and as the iceberg gets calved, the structure disappears with it, with little environmental impact. We spent quite a bit of time in the textiles gallery too, which I think Raspberry really enjoyed as there were quite a number of interactive exhibits. She got to try weaving, braiding and knitting, although the latter was rather complicated since ropes were being used, and ever-appealing to kids, there were buttons to be pressed! It’d have been interesting to watch the old machines in use, spinning yarn, but it didn’t happen while we were there. I’m a sucker for vintage design, so I loved all the retro objects in the gallery — old packets of detergent, images, signs. Nothing like a museum to get one’s fill of such things. There were also these webcams of sorts, where you could get your picture taken and it’d appear on a series of screens. We’d been given five codes when we arrived, so we had some fun being dorky for the cameras.

As with any museum, Raspberry’s attention span was limited, so there wasn’t too much more we could cram into the day, except for a final visit to the kids’ area, where much time was spent mixing different colours of light. Not to mention, the museum is comprised of not just one but five buildings, each with multiple levels. It’s definitely not a place you can explore in just one day. The funny thing is that months ago, I was talking to another homeschooler and she’d mentioned how there wasn’t all that much to do at the museum beyond a working locomotive. I took her word for it and when I planned our visit, I thought that after seeing the brain exhibition, we could go check out the ruins of a Roman fort nearby. Also, when I looked at the museum map, I was under the [very wrong] impression that it was just one floor (“oh, it shouldn’t take us that long to go through what we’re interested in,” I thought erroneously). Yeah… so, so wrong. Needless to say, we didn’t see much of the museum this time around, and we definitely didn’t get to the Roman ruins. We did, however, head over to the 8th Day co-op to pick up some burritos for to complement our dinner. The rest of the museum will have to wait for our next visit, whenever that will be. I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed the museum, as I’m generally interested in the more biological aspects of science but am much less so in the physical sciences. Perhaps I was just smitten by all the vintage objects they have in their collection. Ha! Whatever the reason, I’m already quite looking forward to our next trip there.

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