March 26, 2009
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Cells Exhibition Opens at Maryland Science Center
With the unveiling of its newest permanent exhibition, Cells: The Universe Inside Us, the Maryland Science Center takes the same telescopic technology used to view faraway planets and turns it inward on the human body. The result is a 4,000 square foot exhibit featuring dozens of interactive components and images never seen before by the public. Cells: The Universe Inside Us opens at the Maryland Science Center on Saturday, March 28.
Cells: The Universe Inside Us transports visitors on a journey inside the body, illustrating how cells, the fundamental building blocks of life, are constantly growing and changing. The exhibition includes the latest research in cellular and molecular biology, and its relationship to human development, aging, and health.
Visitors to the exhibition become “cell explorers” in The World Inside a Cell section, where they interact with human-sized cell organelles in an interactive environment enhanced with floating layers of translucent membranes, pulsing light, music and sounds of water. Cell explorers virtually shrink to the size of a single molecule as they learn about the lifecycle of a single cell and fly through the cell’s membranes in a giant, interactive video. In Cells and the Miracle of Life, guests explore the roles cells play in the life cycles of various animals by studying frogs in various stages of life, and using a microscope to compare and contrast the cells of diseased and non-diseased samples of the human lungs and heart.
Six additional interactive exhibits allow visitors to explore the many aspects of the
exciting and rapidly changing field of stem cell research. These exhibits include a giant touch-screen map detailing the latest updates on stem cell research throughout the world; a virtual stem cell lab where visitors can explore the difference between adult and embryonic stem cells, transferring the stem cells to a virtual petri dish and watching them grow; and a plastinated human brain displaying videomicroscopy of the latest research on brain stem cells.
Scientists who specialize in cell biology interact with visitors throughout the exhibition, answering queries from the “Wall of Questions,” and participating in live video conferences and debates focusing on the future of cell biology and the ethics of cell research. Visitors can also participate in cell research by conducting experiments in the Maryland Science Center’s expanded wet lab connected to the exhibit.
To create the exhibition Cells: The Universe Inside Us, the Maryland Science Center collaborated with expert scientific advisors from Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland, and the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research at the University of California San Diego. The Maryland Science Center also partnered with the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, who interpreted cell behavior through videotaped sequences where dancers interpret the words of scientists and engage visitors in moving their own bodies to explore the microscopic world. Students and faculty from the Maryland Institute College of Art worked with Maryland Science Center staff to develop interactive prototypes and final interactive components for the exhibition.
Content for Cells: The Universe Inside Us was based on the observations from focus groups of children, high school students, adults, and teachers. Findings from the focus groups
indicated visitors’ understanding of cells and potential interactive experiences on the subject.
Cells: The Universe Inside Us was conceived, developed, and produced by the Maryland
Science Center. A traveling version of Cells: The Universe Inside Us will tour national science
Cells: The Universe Inside Us was made possible in part by a Science Education Partnership Award from the National Center for Research Resources, a component of the National Institutes of Health, and a major grant from Met Life Foundation. Additional funding for the permanent exhibition was provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network, and the Baltimore City Health Department through a grant from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
The Maryland Science Center is located at 601 Light Street at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
About the Maryland Science Center
The Maryland Science Center at Baltimore's Inner Harbor is visited by more than 500,000 people each year. Popular exhibits include: Dinosaur Mysteries with more than a dozen full-size dinosaurs and interactive paleontology activities; an exploration of the day in the life of the human body in Your Body: The Inside Story; and dozens of interactive experiments in Newton's Alley. Other popular attractions in the museum include the Kids Room, the five-story St. John Properties IMAX Theater, and the world-famous Davis Planetarium.