Section 1: A Universe of Possibilities
The first section will represent a section of the universe. The visitors will enter a large sphere, black, with small lights all around – a 3-dimensional representation of the universe that the visitors can walk through. There will be ramps (clear – with railings! maybe plexiglass tubes?) through this space so that they can walk up and around the space. Around the edges of the sphere will be balconies (also clear) as well. Each of these “stars” (lights) will have a clear orb around them that the visitor can touch. Once an orb is touched a projection of an astronomical phenomena will appear: various star systems, pulsars, galaxies, nebulae, and others!
In this section I wish to expose the visitor to the vastness, beauty, and vision of possibilities of space. They will be immediately thrust into a space completely unlike the one they left behind, though probably the one they most heavily associate with SF. I want in this section to fill them with awe so that they come to the rest of the exhibit with wonder. I want this initial feeling of joy and positivity so that they can approach much of the unnaturalness and non-human with that same feeling. I wanted a way for the visitor to carry with them their identity and history and memories but take away some of the other prejudices and biases that come with entering a space completely as yourself. I hope that entering a space that is so unlike the one left behind that the visitor can enter the exhibit as a type of stage where they are playing the part of the explorer. I also want to associate science with wonder and joy and hope that this can play that part.
On the top balcony will be six doors that lead out. Before each of these doors will be a glass orb with different star systems and worlds in them. These orbs will point to the door as a way of showing that the visitor is going to visit a world in this star system (maybe include a recording like “Welcome to…”, “Cadet, your mission is…”, or a simple “Preparing for landing…”). After walking through the door they will walk down a tube with the representation of entering an atmosphere all around. Because there are six different doors, there are six different options you can take. These options will end in a ground landing with a representation of the environment, both physical and digital. Each of these worlds will have a different soundscape and smell as well as a digital representations. The six worlds are: rogue planet, gas giant (Hot Jupiter?), Earth-like (or just Earth – not all SF is in space!), volcanic planet, neutron star, water world (i.e. Europa).
These atmospheric and ground images will be based on different kinds of worlds that could be out there. As the visitor walks through these tubes they will take readings based off some voice-over recordings and dashboard readings (these could be shown on the wall like a Terminator visual dashboard or something that the visitor can carry with them to reveal certain aspects – the struggle here is not to have this app based in order to maintain accessibility for all visitors who might not all have smartphones). An inspiration for this can be the Star Trek Exhibition where the visitors will receive a device that can activate certain active sites throughout the exhibition. This device can hold onto their email address (or some kind of registration information) to be used in an out-of-site, on-line setting – to be described in more detail below.
**For anyone who wants to go through all six there will be a door where you can re-enter the Universe globe.
Section 2: What is SF?
Each of these small rooms will open into a smaller, “home base” room that introduces the visitor to the idea of SF and sets them up to think outside of the box. The educational goal with this is to help set-up the visitor so that they are prepared for the space they are entering and as a way of shaping the scaffold with which they will enter the space. While I think that throwing a visitor into a situation with little to no background to see what happens is valuable and has its place, in this situation I think preparing and creating a scaffold for information and experiences to be registered and connected is more valuable in this case.
This section will have matte paintings on the walls looking down on the six different worlds that each of the visitors could explore in their tube descent. Each of these walls will also have quotes about SF and user-created spaces centered around questions about SF. These will be created with computers and drawing software in order to help monitor the posts. Some questions could include: “What does Science Fiction mean to you?” “What questions do you have about the future?” “What questions do you have about technology?” “What do you think is most fascinating about the world around you?” There will also be benches and other sitting spaces for people to rest. This area can be thought of as a home base. There will be three doors leading to three different rooms centered around different themes. One reason why this room is important is it can act as a reset from each of the rooms because they deal with different subject matter. Above the doors will be the title and/or theme of the rooms.
Section 3.1: The Galactic Museum of Extraterrestrial Life
Note: I am debating using the word “alien” instead of “extraterrestrial life” in this title because of the connotations it has. I am not sure about what I would want to change or interrogate about that idea and term.
This section will be put together like a museum displaying objects from different alien species – humans are included in this section – catered to different alien species. In the middle of the space will be digital interfaces of different aliens who will provide introductions or interpretations to some of the objects from their culture. Some good examples of this would be the Overlords from Childhood’s End and walking with them through one of their buildings (they have wings and thus move through spaces very differently), one of the humanoids from Left Hand of Darkness to dislodge the certainty of gender gender, and either the Buggers from Ender’s Game or the Kradin from the season four, episode 4 story “Nemesis” from Star Trek Voyager to question how we assign categories based on how an organism looks.
On another wall will be a “Sense Sensation” section where visitors will augment their way of interpreting the world around them with a note on which alien species experiences the world like this. To keep with the theme of being accessible for other alien species who would visit this space there will also be ways that other alien species can augment their own senses. These will be visualized on the wall with a pictogram of how to use each of the objects. Some of the pictograms will be of humans using the tools – others will be of other alien forms using the tools.
A third section will focus on interviews about scientists who have studied various aspects of aliens we don’t yet understand. These will focus on figuring out that a biological life form is sentient (based on a few Star trek episodes encountering microbial life), mechanical life, how to communicate with something entirely alien (using the Solaris alien for this) and other forms of language in general (using LeGuin’s “The Author of the Acacia Seeds and Other Extracts from the Journal of Therolinguistics”.)
I would like the scientists on the video to be actual scientists writing out how they would engage with the question at hand in a hypothetical way. This would involve scientists in the creation of the exhibit, perhaps giving it a level of authenticity, but would also involve more scientists with the SF in general, hopefully taking a first step into asking scientists to think more outside of the box and dream big!
Finally this area will have an archaeological dig site from an unknown species. The visitors can observe and scan it and try to think about what story it might tell.
Media to keep in mind: Doctor Who’s Museum, lifeforms in Jupiter short story, Childhood’s End, Solaris, Flatland? LeGuin’s language piece, Europa Report, Ender’s Game, The Martian
Section 3.2: World and Civilization Building
This section is in part based on the New York Hall of Science’s exhibition “Connected Worlds.” In the center of the room will be touchscreen interactives where the user can change/create a world based on a list of options. The options will deal with the type of star they are circling (if at all), size of planet, what it is made out of, distance from planet (these might be displayed on a sliding scale?). Based on their picks from these options, other options will become available to them to build (i.e. they can’t have a small planet of medium density with a thick atmosphere or a hydrogen-based atmosphere). Their choices will build aspects of the world in front of them.
On the walls of the room will be projections of a sampling of some worlds. They will interact with these world by trying to build a civilization on this world. They will have challenges appear on the screen and options to address the challenge. Some of these challenges will be: energy production, water, food, shelter. Different solutions are appropriate for different environments (i.e. wind energy wouldn’t work very well on Mars but would on Venus). This projection will spill onto the floor where users can move around cushion-ey pieces to change how that projection moves through the space. There can be probably be five of these projected at a time.
Section 3.3: Utopia/Dystopia
This will be presented as a photographic expose on different “Utopian” societies. Below the photographs will be objects either from the photograph or related to it in some way. This is both to tie it back to an object but also to give children something to look at. These photos will be paired with propaganda posters of the history of this society – how they achieved the state they did. With each expose will be a personality test “Which Utopia do you belong to?” where the visitors will answer questions pertaining to the values of the Utopias represented. Their device will record their Utopia. After each photographic expose will also be a yes/no button question of: “Is this a Utopia you would want to live in?” and “Is this Utopia?”
Section 4.1: History of Science and SF
This will be a timeline of the history of science and SF. The history of SF will also have data on recurring thematic representations throughout SF. Under these representations will be a digital cork board (digital to screen for inappropriate entries) where visitors can enter in what those themes mean to them (alien invasion, body duplication/take-over, mad scientists, nuclear disasters, superheroes?, others?). Technologies which came out of SF will be addressed here as well as any technologies that are currently being developed.
Section 4.2: “There is no future in Science Fiction” Theater
An actor will do a brief presentation on the perception and role of SF in history. Much of this will be based around LeGuin’s article that SF is not about the future. While SF is not about predicting the future it is about dreaming about possibilities, the unknown, and what we can create in the time ahead of us. After the presentation the audience is invited to create their own grand vision of the future and why they created it that way.
At home section:
As they are checking out they will scan their device to signal they have finished and it will send them in an email the following: the atmospheric readings they took from the landing, the world they created with the statistics, their Utopia, the mystery object they picked from the dig site, what they think it is and why. There is also the potential to have a site where everything that is created by the visitors lives online:
– universe that becomes populated with the worlds that everyone creates
– select worlds will have a building civilization that people can add to and based on technology or hypothesized tech
– online visual of the dig site and the interpretations of it which you can up or downvote based on if you agree or not.
– results of the voting in the Utopia/Dystopia section
– interactive timeline
Sources for planet inspiration:
Weird Exoplanets: http://www.space.com/159-strangest-alien-planets.html