Charles C. Carlson, Director
Life Sciences, The Exploratorium; San Francisco, CA 94123 415/561-0319. FAX 415/561-0307; Internet: firstname.lastname@example.org
From April through September, 1995, the Exploratorium mounted a special exhibition called Diving into the Gene Pool consisting of 26 interactive exhibits developed over the course of three years. The exhibits introduce the science of genetics and increase public awareness of the Human Genome Project and its implications for society. Founded in the success of exhibits developed for the 1992 genetics and biotechnology symposium "Winding Your Way Through DNA" (co-hosted with the University of California, San Francisco), the 1995 exhibition aimed to create an engaging and accessible presentation of specific information about genetic science and our understanding of the structure and function of the human genome, genetic technology, and ethical issues surrounding current genetic science.
In addition to creating a unique collection of exhibits, the project developed a range of supplemental public programming to provide public forum for discussion and interaction about genetics and bioethics. A lecture series entitled "Bioethics and the Human Genome Project," featured such key thinkers as Mary Claire King, Leroy Hood, David Martin, Troy Duster, Michael Yesley, William Atchley, and Joan Hamilton (among others). A weekend event program focused on biodiversity in animal and plant life with events such as "Seedy Science," "Blooming Genes," and "Dog Diversity." A Biotech Weekend offered access to new technologies through demonstrations by local biotech firms and genetic counselors. And a specially-commissioned theatre piece, "Dog Tails," provided a instructive and comic look for kids into the foundations of genetics and issues of diversity.
In the 5-month exhibition period, approximately 300,000 visitors had the opportunity to visit the exhibition, and well over 5,000 participated in the special programming. Following the exhibition's close, the new exhibits will become a permanent part of the Exploratorium's collection of over 650 interactive exhibits.
Additional funding for 1995-96 will support formal outside evaluation of the effectiveness of the exhibits, and support exhibit remediation based on the evaluation findings. This activity will both strengthen the Exploratorium's permanent collection of genetics exhibits and help to develop a feasibility study for a travelling version of the genetics exhibition for other museums around the country and the world.
* Supported by a grant from the Program Director, U. S. Department of Energy-ELSI under grant nurser DE-FG03-93ER61583.
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