The Museum of Science, Boston (MOS), one of the world’s largest science centers, enlisted Moment Factory to collaborate on the new permanent exhibition Arctic Adventure: Exploring with Technology. The opening of the exhibition ushers in a bold new vision for the cultural institution, offering a first glimpse of the ten-year transformation of its renowned Blue Wing, the most ambitious renovation in the museum’s 190-year history.
Arctic Adventure invites guests to experience the arctic as polar explorers. Visitors can traverse glaciers using ground-penetrating radar, drill ice cores to extract data about climate change, and locate wildlife with satellite and drone technology. Guests enter the exhibition through a cave made of real ice, which opens onto a vast arctic tundra vista that unfurls beyond, where sound, lighting, interactive visuals, and set design bring the environment to life. Overarching art direction allows the content to be creative and playful, yet explanatory and educational, while generative, real-time content creates the ever-shifting natural rhythms of daylight, seasons, and the weather.
The award-winning exhibition builds on the Museum of Science’s belief that everyone has a role to play in deepening our shared understanding of science, technology, and climate change. To fulfill their goal of offering a transformational learning environment, the Museum staff challenged Moment Factory to help them create a new paradigm for immersive, interactive, and awe-inspiring museum experiences. Arctic Adventure signals a sea change to visitors by transporting them to an environment unlike any other they’ve previously experienced at a museum. With opportunities to interact with real technology, visitors of all ages and abilities transform into active participants exploring what these tools and processes reveal about climate change through experiential learning.
Arctic Adventure features four distinct zones, each of which foster unique opportunities for intuitive learning:
The Polar Frontier: Visitors enter the exhibition through a multi-sensory ice cave, confronted by a touchable wall of real ice that’s complemented by digital windows into ice cave habitats, such as that of the arctic fox. Around the corner from this cave, visitors experience a panoramic view of the northern frontier, where they can spot arctic wildlife and observe changes in the environment.
The Animals Zone: In the next two zones, visitors learn how to track arctic land animals across an arctic vista using satellite technology and camera-equipped drones to interpret animal behaviours as they adapt to unprecedented warming. Generative, real-time content powers blizzards and storms that take over the vista, inspiring an appreciation of how extreme weather can make arctic exploration more challenging. An underwater hydrophone listening station supports visitors to differentiate the calls of animal species as they watch them pass below the ice beneath their feet.
The Ice Core Theater: As visitors move forward in the experience, they learn how to extract ice cores with drill rigs, and how to analyze the millions of years of history recorded in bubbles of air trapped within the layers of ice, discovering evidence about the health and history of our climate.
The Arctic Navigation Zone: Visitors must work in teams to safely traverse a virtual ice field while avoiding losing their equipment (and themselves!) in its deep crevasses. Equipped with ground-penetrating radar and satellite maps, visitors apply real-life technologies and data to reveal and evade the crevasses that are hidden under the glacier's surface.
A reimagined learning experience
Arctic Adventure breaks the mold of traditional museum exhibitions by transforming the gallery space into a believable arctic world where the sun rises and sets, weather patterns change, and animals migrate and change their coats and behaviours in step with the seasons. In this fully immersive environment, guests are empowered to play an active role in the experience, where they not only get to learn about technologies used in the arctic, but actually get to use them.
By centering the design of the exhibit around the visitor experience, Arctic Adventure allows people to discover and learn at their own pace. Instead of overwhelming them with information, the interactive exhibition design team developed an approach that lets visitors make their own decisions. Information is segmented throughout the exhibit to allow visitors to uncover the knowledge and content organically throughout their journey. With a variety of routes and outcomes available to them, visitors can feel in control of their experiences while learning from them.
This interdisciplinary approach was founded on three experiential pillars: engage visitors through immersive storytelling techniques, encourage discovery using gamified exhibition design, and empower visitors with hands-on experience manipulating technology. Each of these pillars works together to foster an emotional connection with the exhibition content, while appealing to a range of learning styles and visitor needs. This approach leads to a more effective and memorable educational experience than those centered around the didactic communication of scientific information.
Pushing the boundaries of exhibition design
To create a living, breathing environment that responds to visitors in real-time, Moment Factory and the Museum of Science’s exhibit design leadership established a creative approach that blurred the lines between the digital and physical worlds. Inspired by video game storyworlds, game-engine design, interactive technology, and large-scale video projection, the design teams created a dynamic and immersive experience that pushes the boundaries of museum exhibition design, implementation, and operation.
The design process positioned Moment Factory and the Museum as partners and collaborators. With the shared goal of making the exhibition as multi-sensory and engaging as possible, exhibit development involved extensive prototyping, testing, and iterating an array of cutting-edge light, sound, visual, and interactive solutions. Guiding the concept was the notion of “content exploded”, achieved through the synchronization of sound, light, touch, vibration, and temperature.
To keep the environment as immersive as possible, care was taken to seamlessly integrate hardware and controls into the scenographic design. Energy and environmental concerns were approached as overall life-cycle, sustainability, and hygiene priorities, through the use of easy-to-clean equipment and long-life systems programmed to automoatically power down at night.
As the first major new exhibition unveiled under the Museum’s transformation plan, Arctic Adventure serves as an inspiration and demonstration zone to the institution's guests, patrons, and donors of the possibilities that can be achieved in a museum setting. In addition to unprecedented praise from museum visitors, the exhibition has already garnered numerous industry accolades, including the 2021 IES Illumination Award of Distinction for Interior Lighting Design, and a 2021 Concours Idéa award in the Digital Experience category. Other major industry awards are scheduled to be announced in late 2021.