Partner Highlight: Museum on the Move: Traveling Nano Exhibition to Reach a New Audience in Maryland

Sarah Zimmerman, Port Discovery Children’s Museum

Port Discovery logo

Nanoscience and technology were found in an unlikely location when Port Discovery Children's Museum partnered with The James and Anne Robinson Nature Center in Columbia, Maryland.  Part of Port Discovery’s mission states that we "extend our impact by taking our programs community and state wide".  Museum on the Move, the museum’s newest outreach initiative, does just that.

The goal of Museum on the Move is to take small footprint exhibitions from the museum out to the community.  With the 2015 mini-grant provided by the NISE Network, Port Discovery was able to pilot the new initiative.  In February 2015, the Nano exhibition traveled 20 miles to the Robinson Nature Center.  The exhibition, provided by the NISE Network, has been on display at Port Discovery since October 2011 where thousands of children and families have enjoyed it. 

The Robinson Nature Center was chosen as the pilot location because of their existing relationship with the museum and unique venue.  The Nano exhibition has been displayed at countless science centers and children’s museums, but never a nature center.  Port Discovery and Robinson were excited to bring a unique topic to the nature center. 

During the exhibit’s stay, Port Discovery’s Education Team provided hands on activities to complement and extend visitor learning.  All the activities were selected from the museum’s vast collection of previous NanoDays kits.  Activities were specifically chosen that had a connection to the natural world; the crowd favorite was Iridescent Art (Thin Films).   Guests made connections from the iridescent colors they were creating to the iridescence that can be found in blue morpho butterflies and other structures (Butterfly Structures).  Other activities included comparing hydrophobic, kinetic, and beach sands, and learning about nano gold while making stained glass windows.  

Through the NISE Network, Port Discovery was given the opportunity to work through the Team-Based Inquiry (TBI) process of evaluation to learn from this Museum on the Move pilot.  The first question the TBI team posed was "are we reaching new audiences both in regards to nanoscience and Port Discovery?"  It was discovered that 53% of visitors surveyed had never been to Port Discovery before.  The TBI team was also interested in learning if Robinson staff felt comfortable interacting with guests within the Nano exhibit.  Robinson staff reflected that the training provided by Port Discovery staff on the exhibit and nano content was very helpful.  Though initially some were unsure about the fit of the exhibit at the nature center, staff quickly began making connections and integrating nano content into other aspects of their programming.  Through the process, Port Discovery learned how to best integrate an exhibit into another institution. 

With this knowledge in hand, Port Discovery is looking forward to growing the Museum on the Move initiative.  This winter, the Nano exhibition will be moving from Robinson Nature Center to the Owings Mills branch of Baltimore County Public Library, located 20 miles from the museum.   Next, Port Discovery plans to travel other exhibits including Here We Grow, which explores modern agriculture.  Port Discovery plans to use these Museum on the Move projects to reach thousands more children and families who would not otherwise experience the museum and its programs. 

To learn more about Museum on the Move, please contact Sarah Zimmerman (szimmerman@portdiscovery.org), Education and Community Enrichment Manager at Port Discovery Children’s Museum.