At the Copernicus Science Centre, we design and build not only individual exhibits, which we make available to visitors as part of our constantly improving stationary exhibitions, but we also create mobile exhibitions that travel across the country, thus giving even more people the opportunity to discover the fascinating world of science through independent experimentation.
The “Captured Mind” is our second mobile exhibition. The first one, named “Experiment Yourself!”, set off on a trip across Poland in 2006 – long before the official opening of the Copernicus Science Centre in November 2010. Its popularity was so great that we decided to prepare another one. The “Captured Mind” exhibition, created entirely by the Copernicus Science Centre staff, which includes scientists, engineers, designers and educators, began its journey across the country in May 2014.
Concept of the exhibition
We wanted the exhibits to be linked by a common thread. We chose a subject in the field of cognitive psychology.
After studying the specialist literature and consulting with experts (a psychoanalyst, psychiatrist and neuroanatomist) about our ideas, we selected appropriate exhibits from our stationary exhibitions. Then we built devices that were almost identical but met the requirements of our mobile exhibition.
The exhibition, which consists of 20 exhibits, presents selected aspects of the process of learning about the world and the functioning of the human senses and the brain, which builds an image of the surrounding world on their basis. The exhibition sets traps for the mind and uses multiple tricks to deceive it. It provokes reflection on the credibility of our perception. Is the world around us the way we see it? How does the brain deal with the contradictory information perceived by the senses? How does it deal with the huge number of stimuli it receives from the surroundings? It sieves through them and selects only the most important stimuli from the whole wealth of available information. However, in the meantime, it is influenced by emotions to a much greater degree than we think. It guesses, schemes, looks for relationships and manipulates the memory. Our exhibition makes it possible to observe all of this.
Miniaturising the exhibits
Mobile exhibitions are governed by their own rules. They impose specific requirements and limitations, which pose an additional challenge to the designers. The exhibition must be mobile and packable, which requires the construction of lightweight, shock- and water-resistant exhibits that can be housed in standardised boxes to facilitate loading and installation.
Based on stationary exhibits, our designers and constructors created their miniature copies (using smaller elements and lighter structures) or reworked, smaller versions (replacing the mechanism that gives the desired effect). These changes are well illustrated by the following two examples:
The exhibition arouses great interest among both people who are prepared to receive content in the field of cognitive psychology and people who have not had an opportunity to learn about this field of science before. Each of the exhibits can be viewed on two levels: a surface level – which offers entertainment and evokes emotions (joy, amazement and surprise) to motivate further exploration, and a deeper level – for those intrigued and inquisitive – enclosed in a psychological interpretation and available in the descriptions of the exhibits and conversations with animators. What do these two levels look like in the case of a specific exhibit? Let us look at the example of the exhibit named “Hit or Miss?”.
Irena Cieślińska, Programme Director of the Copernicus Science Centre, perfectly explains the idea behind this two-level structure of exhibits:
The exhibition first entertains and then makes us think that we need to understand the limitations and conditions of our own senses – which are the research instruments that we were born with. This is not an exhibition about illusions or that the brain is weak and the senses useless. This is an exhibition about science, which begins when we realise that our senses are fallible and cannot be trusted – and also when we try to overcome this fallibility.
Form of the exhibits
When it comes to design, we opted for clear minimalism and homogeneous enclosures. We wanted the “Captured Mind” exhibition to stand out in every space it appears in. We used fluorescent orange colouring. Intense orange is a warning colour, which is immediately noticed and perceived as an alarm signal. It attracts our attention. When you finally come over to the exhibits, you will encounter materials that simply ask to be touched. A white smooth veneer, rough rubber which turns out to be slippery to the touch and corrugated plywood that looks flat from afar but has a shape that imitates the frequency of brain waves. We wanted the exhibits to use their form to speak loudly of the fact that the world is different than we think.