PacSci Perspectives


A New Era Of Experimentation

by | Oct 25, 2017

Diana Johns, Pacific Science Center Vice President of Exhibits & Life Sciences explores virtual reality at the University of Southern California.

Diana Johns, Pacific Science Center Vice President of Exhibits & Life Sciences explores virtual reality at the University of Southern California.

An Interview with Vice President of Exhibits, Diana Johns on Pacific Science Center’s new set of experiences.

It’s a common misconception that science is a set series of facts and equations. Science is a boundless and timeless process of inquiry, discovery, and problem solving. If science is fluid and constant, then shouldn’t a center for it be just that?

Pacific Science Center is in an era of discovery. We want to get better at inspiring guests to observe, ask questions, develop hypotheses, conduct experiments, and evaluate evidence in all aspects of their lives. In other words, we are immersing our guests in the scientific process- and our newest experiment, What is Reality is no exception.

“We’re figuring out a new model for developing experiences,” Diana Johns, Vice President of Exhibits for Pacific Science Center explains. “The traditional museum model of creating exhibits often ends with experiences that have really great content but that feel static over time. With all of the new technology tools out there we’re playing with ideas on how to make our experiences more nimble. It’s exciting to have the ability to experiment with new ideas.”

Diana Johns is a veteran of the Science Center and she is no stranger to change, but this level of experimentation is new. Like any new thing, there will be successes and failures. “That’s just fine – the point is to keep learning and applying so that we can deliver an excellent and delightful guest experience.”

“It’s a pretty big departure from what the Science Center has done before. We (Will Daugherty, President & CEO) and I started talking about the potential for Building Four after Terracotta Warriors departed. Our discussion lead to our interest in being more representative of the tech and innovation sector and really infusing the idea of a community laboratory and living room into our offerings. The conversation evolved into questions of reality – how do we know what is real?”

The topic of reality seems tangential, but it sparked a very important dialogue.

Questioning the world that we know dates way back in human history. People create their own reality each day. One portrayal of reality is summarized in the children’s story, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. The story follows a stuffed rabbit’s desire to become real through the love of his owner. Diana mentions that the story was part of the inspiration for the concept of What is Reality.

The popularity of immersive technologies is growing and Seattle is a hotbed for rapid innovation in augmented and virtual reality. Everyone from industry giants to small start-ups are playing with the promise and potential of these exciting new ways of seeing and interacting with the world. It’s also a tie-in that Diana and Will thought connects with the local tech and innovation sector to bring new, immersive experiences to our community and spark conversations about reality with guests.

“It’s a great big onion with tons of layers we get to peel back and play with. We’re asking questions like: What does it look like to create reality experiences that are more nimble? What does it mean to have our Science Interpreters facilitate experiences between guests and local innovators? How can we be more of an open door for our community?”

What is most exciting for the Science Center is the opportunity to integrate more into the community; to be a resource.

“As a Science Center, we are committed to experimentation to become better. It’s gutsy. We are putting ourselves out there and there will be failure in the mix. It will help us learn and move forward.”

Staying true to our name, expect to partake in the scientific process during your next visit. Come prepared to question the world you know through a variety of experiences and experiment with us.

Meet scientists like Ângela on most Saturdays at Pacific Science Center. Stop by Ackerley Family Exhibit Gallery to engage in hands-on activities relating to research being conducted by local scientists. Learn More