Time to bridge the gap.
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Time to bridge the gap. Interacting with real objects. Paulo Gama Mota. ECSITE – TOULOUSE 2012 E. Communicating science. In the last decades, museums and science centres have concentrated in explaining and rendering scientific concepts accessible. Objects were set aside then.

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Time to bridge the gap.

Interacting with real objects

Paulo Gama Mota


Communicating science

In the last decades, museums and science centres have concentrated in explaining and rendering scientific concepts accessible.

Objects were set aside then.

Communicating science

The contact with the real objects triggers imagination and wonder in a way that is not achieved when only concepts are presented.

Objects from scientific collections are real and concrete traits that establish a direct relationship with scientific discovery. Nothing replaces the direct contact with them.

It is now time to bridge the gap.


  • I address two situations where we attempted to generate interaction and understanding of the science behind the objects, their intrinsic value and creating a unique experience for visitors.

The Science Museum of University of Coimbra

  • Secrets of light and matter – an interactive exhibition

  • 18th Century physics cabinet – a unique historical room

The exhibition combines stories about the objects and their function with interactive displays that illustrate the principles or replicate phenomena studied with those objects

The principle of spectrometry as a barcode of natural elements is presented and described using old spectrometers and demonstrated through several interactive displays.

Visitors can use a spectrometer to evaluate by themselves that different elements have different spectra.

Vision interactive Periodic Table.

What it is like to have a lens?

Vision interactive Periodic Table.

And many lenses?

Physics cabinet interactive Periodic Table.

Telling exquisite and unique onestories in order to entice the visitor’s imagination on the function and uses of the historical objects

Did visitors prefer the historical or the interactive? exquisite and unique one

References to objects and interactive displays from our exhibitions reveal that items from the interactive exhibition were more often recalled than those from the physics cabinet.



Age: 11-18;

Mean = 12.9 y

Best remembered object exquisite and unique one

Objects referred by students were those highlighted by the guides.

Best remembered object exquisite and unique one

The fraudulent balance (unequal length arms) is highlighted by the guides through stories of its use.

This focus the visitors’ attention and enhances their imagination, which then favors the recall of these objects.

What did I find more… exquisite and unique one

Visitors clearly highlighted the objects as the most positive aspect of their visit.

They also found the lack of interactivity as somewhat negative.

Concluding exquisite and unique one

  • Interactive displays can generate new fruitful dialogues with objects.

  • Ingeneral interactivescatch more attention thanobjects.

  • Visitors appreciate the interaction with real objects.

  • Historical objects do elicit learning and favor mental reenactment of function and use.

Thank you exquisite and unique one