Friday, March 14, 2008

Exhibit Design Inspiration:Math Is Beautiful

Two often underutilized ways to spruce up any exhibit area are to include items related to mathematics and optical illusions. Both subjects have demonstrated "holding times" for visitors and can often be developed inexpensively.

A recent article about an exhibition of mathematical art (including the example from Michael Field, above) highlighted both the beauty and science, visible in every selection. There must be a blank wall or other suitable space in your museum that could benefit from such an image.

Often times we think of math and illusion images as only 2D, but one of my favorite websites, suitably titled "Grand Illusions" shows how mathematics and optical illusions can become 3D interactive objects or toys. The Grand Illusions site also contains an online shop where you can purchase many of the items shown.

How have you used math or illusion inside your museum? Share your ideas in the Comments Section below!

1 comment:

  1. Paul,

    I minored in math in college, and always saw it as a kind of art--especially relative to engineering, which was my primary focus. When I went to work in children's and science museums, I was surprised by how many of my science educator colleagues still retained a residual hatred/fear of math. I've always thought it a shame that the really beautiful parts of math--the infinite, the philosophical, the theoretical--are not made available to most people, who get overwhelmed and turned off by computation (which is what math is in school until college).

    Anyway, this led me to go on a math bonanza at the Capital Children's Museum. We did abstract math for kids as young as 3, taking puppet show trips to infinity, "proofing" things, etc. But my all-time favorite math activity, accessible to all ages, is the games and challenges around the four color map theorem, an elusive rule that has only been proven (inelegantly) by computer. You can play with it with crayons and paper, and at any level, get a little glimpse of the bigness and wildness of math.

    Would that we had more math in our museums...