Museum of Science Opens the Hall of Human Life Exhibit Today

Museum of Science Opens the Hall of Human Life Exhibit Today

As soon as you step inside the Hall of Human Life, opening at the Museum of Science, Boston today, November 16, 2013, powerfully interactive environments will take you on a journey inside your own body to unravel the mysteries of human biology. From testing your balance or ability to handle distraction to trying to recognize faces, you will be amazed at the discoveries you make, as you create your own evolving profile from hands-on experiences that are entertaining and fun.

Ever wonder what makes you hungry or keeps you awake? How efficiently you walk or how a gene works? In delightful, often whole body, experiences, you will exercise your brain, involving your eyes and ears, your hands, and even your feet, as you interact with the Hall of Human Life in an unending process of discovery.

Spanning 70 exhibit elements, the Hall of Human Life will revolutionize how you engage with your own biology, understand your body, and manage your health. Designed to change with accelerating breakthroughs in biology and biotechnology, this transformative 10,000-square-foot exhibition will ignite your curiosity about innovations from the frontlines of health, medicine, and the life sciences and help you develop thinking skills to make informed choices. You will face intriguing, at times profound, questions such as: Is texting changing my brain? Should I get my baby's DNA sequenced? What triggers aggression?

Entering portals into the Hall of Human Life through a giant pulsing "membrane," you take a wristband encoded with your own anonymous I.D. number. At interactive stations throughout the exhibition, you will answer thought-provoking questions and take 15 unique personal measurements that will become central to the exhibition's stories and part of a larger Museum database of visitor experiences online. Exploring this information with innovative data visualization tools will reveal new insight that may change how you look at yourself and others.

"We aim to address misconceptions and inspire you, as you discover new things about yourself and have fun comparing your data with friends and family," says Hall of Human Life manager Elizabeth Kong. "You will feel the excitement of science, exploring how your body works by asking 'How do you know?' questions, and adding your experiences to our unique experiment. We also want to help you navigate the tidal wave of information on health and biology and encourage you to ask more questions. If you wonder about super bugs, for example, you can find out how antibiotics work and how to understand antibiotic resistance. You will also learn that we need some microbes to survive."

Make Discoveries in Dynamic Multisensory Environments

In five distinct inquiry areas, anchored by displays introducing Food, Organisms, Physical Forces, Time, and Communities, you will investigate through interactive experiences how forces in each of these "environments" change us biologically, how we change them, and how those changes can shape the future of our species. You will learn that our individual physiological changes today can affect populations over generations and that people with inherited genes that worked well for ancestors could develop problems today such as diabetes or hypertension.

Throughout your journey, you will use your own body to understand biological mechanisms at the cellular and molecular level, manipulating hands-on models. Compelling 3-D animation and interactives will relate genetics to daily life. You will also be able to access research on health conditions that have increased dramatically in response to today's environment: hypertension, cancer, antibiotic resistance, major depression, and Type 2 diabetes.

Joining the Hall of Human Life community of researchers, clinicians, educators, and visitors, you will help answer questions scientists are researching today. For example, your measurements may offer evidence of inherited genes that control our appetites today or offer clues as to why allergies are on the increase. You can help researchers understand why living in a heated environment might change our biology or allow us to explore how changing demographics in the United States alter how our brains remember faces, and much more.

You will likely encounter surprises along the way. Highlights include:

Standing in front of the Body Mirror in Organisms, you will be amazed at the trillions of microbes that actually live on your body. At Anatomy of a Sneeze, if you put a fist full of pollen up a giant nose, you can see what really happens when you inhale an allergen.

In Food, after discovering what 2,000 calories looks like measured in ceiling-high tubes of grapes, cupcakes, hotdogs, and carrots, you can walk down a 20-foot-long runway and find out how few calories in grapes you actually burn.

Operating a robot arm at the control panel in Physical Forces, you will see that the artificial blue light that helps astronauts stay alert on the International Space Station can affect you too.

In Time, as you use your whole body to move a virtual ball through a maze, you will find out how the ability to balance can differ from person to person and change with age. If you wonder who multitasks better men or women you can see how well you perform in a computer game when distracted and why some people multitask better than others.

In Communities you will even learn how your friends can change your brain.

Unlock Cellular and Evolutionary Secrets in Other Learning Spaces

At the heart of the exhibition in the Exploration Hub, you can watch the dissection of a sheep's lung and then test how much air you can blow out of your lungs, guided by Museum educators who can also answer questions and talk with you about your data. In the Living Laboratory, you can become a subject in an authentic scientific study and have the opportunity to discuss your experience with a researcher.

Grappling with questions about life and health in the Provocative Questions area, you will discover how your personal experience, social values, and scientific evidence can help you build arguments on issues that science can inform but not answer. The first question is: "Should parents know the full genome of their future or newborn child?" New questions will be introduced every six months.

The 3-D Human Body Theater immerses you in stories tied to the five environments. The intriguing videos explore aggression, vaccines and herd immunity, prenatal development, how humans evolved to be more capable of endurance activities, and how cooking, lactose tolerance, and industrialized food-processing are changing us.

A Bee Hive, Chick Hatchery, and Tamarin Habitat provide opportunities to explore the behavior and biology of other live animals. You learn about the importance of bees to our food supply, embryonic chick development, and our similarities to monkeys.

You will also be able to create and email a Virtual Postcard with your video, images, and data home and track yourself changing on future visits or go to a highly interactive Hall of Human Life website to view anonymous data from the larger visitor population.

A World-Class Resource for New England's World-Class Life Sciences Community

"We are in the midst of a revolution in health care," says Ioannis Miaoulis, Museum president and director. "We all wonder about the possibilities for health that new medical technologies offer. Drawing on our region's thriving life sciences community, the Hall of Human Life will involve you in new ways, using sophisticated digital technologies and media to experiment with real time onsite research, forums, social networking, online collaboration, and laboratory experiences." Technologically ambitious, the exhibition grew out of a collaborative spirit that has become part of its DNA. With researchers from hospitals, academia, industry, and public health, the Museum designed the hands-on activities to spark curiosity and reflect the latest research.

"The Hall of Human Life will be a world-class resource that reflects Massachusetts' status as the global leader in life sciences," says Susan Windham-Bannister, Ph.D., President & CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. "It will inform the public about the life sciences in general, inspire young people to become the scientists and engineers that we'll need for the future, and provide an educational resource for training the talented workers that are Massachusetts' calling card. No museum is better positioned to engage the public in the spirit of innovation than the Museum of Science and the Center is excited to be a supporter."

Support for the Hall of Human Life

The Hall of Human Life is the Museum's largest, most far-reaching permanent exhibition since the 1990s. Through a strategic fundraising initiative as part of the Museum's $250 million campaign, the Hall of Human Life has received $20.4 million dollars to support exhibition development and fabrication, infrastructure renovation and operations. Since 2005, the Museum has received more than 70 gifts supporting the exhibition, including a $5 million matching grant from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. The Hall of Human Life has also drawn lead support from Joshua and Amy Boger, Rick and Nonnie Burnes, Deborah Dunsire and Michael Hall, Paul and Joanne Egerman, Genzyme Corporation, George and Daphne Hatsopoulos, Kurt and Therese Melden, Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company, Henri and Belinda Termeer, Neil and Elise Wallace, Gwill York and Paul Maeder. The Museum seeks additional funds to complete a $6 million Life Sciences Endowment for the exhibition.

About the Museum of Science, Boston

One of the world's largest science centers and Boston's most attended cultural institution, the Museum introduces about 1.5 million visitors a year to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) via dynamic programs and hundreds of interactive exhibits. Founded in 1830, the Museum was first to embrace all the sciences under one roof. Highlights include the Thomson Theater of Electricity, Charles Hayden Planetarium, Mugar Omni Theater, Gordon Current Science & Technology Center, 3-D Digital Cinema and Butterfly Garden. Reaching over 20,000 teens a year worldwide via the Intel Computer Clubhouse Network, the Museum also leads a $41 million National Science Foundation-funded Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network. The Museum's "Science Is an Activity" exhibit plan has been awarded NSF grants and influenced science centers worldwide. Its National Center for Technological Literacy's engineering curricula have reached over 53,000 teachers and 4.1 million students. The Museum has: been recognized by Boston and Cambridge for its energy efforts; named an Employer of Choice by Work Without Limits; is Yankee Magazine's "Best of New England Readers' Choice" for Cultural Attraction in Science; is El Planeta's Best Tourist Attraction for the Massachusetts Latino population; and Undiscovered Worlds was recognized as the "Best Immersive-Fulldome Program" by the Jackson Hole Science Media Awards. Visit Follow the Museum on Twitter at @MuseumOfScience or Facebook at

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