Researching the Science Museum Lates

The photo shows an interior view of the second floor of the Science Museum, looking down on the ground floor
The interior of the Science Museum, London

This post was written by Roberta Wedge, Gender Gap Project Worker

On Wednesday evening a small team of staff and volunteers left the Wikimedia UK office for the Science Museum, for some focussed research on what makes a great Late. These monthly adults-only events are a popular way for galleries and museums to open themselves out to an under-served audience. The V&A claims to be “the original contemporary late night event”, and since 1999, GLAMs large and small have tried their hand at “drinking and thinking” evenings. After many years of sampling, I still think that the V&A and the Science Museum are the best exemplars.

As you may have heard (through the UK-wiki list and on the Water Cooler page within the WMUK wiki), the Science Museum has offered WMUK the opportunity to showcase our work at the Late in November. In October they’re launching their biggest gallery in many years, The Information Age, and unusually, the Late on Wednesday 26 November will be themed around that. We’re very fortunate in being invited to take part.

Last night was one of the best Lates I’ve been to. Not only was the whole museum packed with about 5000 happy people (all over 18 and most under 35, and crucially for my role, about half of them were women), but the range of events was truly impressive. I counted about 30 things going on, most of them free, from pub quiz and game show to demonstrations and workshops. September’s theme was the science of magic and illusion. Make your own zoetrope! Enjoy safe but satisfying indoor explosions with Punk Science! Watch the salinity of the oceans change, speeded up a million times and modelled on a 2m glowing globe! Debunk the Cottingley Fairies!

So as we were sitting in the IMAX theatre, watching the cheerfully scruffy presenters rouse the crowd to participate, we were thinking, what would this look like with a Wikimedia theme? How could we harness their dynamic but informal style to bring out the fun and wonder of wiki-ness? I would love to see a data whiz take on the challenge of filling that floating globe with the traces of Wikipedia edits, different languages ebbing and flowing like ocean currents as Indonesia goes to sleep and Germany wakes up — and the sun never sets on the anglophone empire. We already have high hopes of big-screen audio-visual manifestations of our activities, like Listen to Wikipedia, but it’s all up for grabs. If there’s something you’d love to show off at the Information Age Late, please let me know as soon as possible. We already have almost a dozen ideas, but want to expand the pool of possibilities before meeting with the Science Museum again, when cold reality may have to come into play.

More research is needed: I can’t wait for the next Science Museum Late, on October 29, with the theme of “Food and Drink”.

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