Science museums in Silicon Wadi

The whole of Israel, but particularly the coastal part we are on now is known in tech circles as Silicon Wadi. So it is only right that we should see not one, but two science museums while we were here (a new record for one country!). I’m trying out a new rating system here, to include what we think makes the perfect science museum.

Robot exhibit at Haifa
Robot exhibit at Haifa

First, we visited the Bloomfield Science museum in Jerusalem, which Evan mentioned here. And then we visited the Israeli National Museum of Science, as the highlight of our Haifa day here.

So how do they compare and contrast?

1. The Museum must engage and excite – this one the Haifa museum wins hands down. The staff made an enormous effort to get all of us interested in each of the exhibits, and they had some great exhibits to do it with. Their travelling exhibit about robots was an excellent start to our visit, and we all had great fun actually lying down on a bed of nails. The Jerusalem museum had some good, standard exhibits – their section on optical illusions was very well done, but the overall experience wasn’t as engaging. Haifa 8/10, Jerusalem 6/10.

2. The exhibits must work and not baffle – both museums did well here. The Haifa museum had a couple of non working exhibits, but only because you needed a guide for those sections. 9/10 in both cases.

3. A play area should not substitute for teaching science in the museum. Haifa didn’t have a play area at all – all entertainment was integrated. And (see 1 above) the exhibits were entertaining enough that that worked pretty well. Jerusalem had a little kids play area, and a bigger one by the cafe (top marks from parents there!) which was big enough to provide respite for kids who need to run around, and small enough that it didn’t take over the experience. Still a few too many things that kids could just randomly bash, though. Haifa 9/10, Jerusalem 7/10.

4. Televisions and computers are no longer, in themselves, cool. Both museums did fine on this one. More generally, it is pretty hard to keep up to date in a science museum – neither museum had anything obviously dated. 9/10 each.

5. Museums should tell a story. This is the hardest one to get right. And I don’t think either of them did it for me, particularly. But Haifa came closer in that there were quite a few rooms that had a theme that they explored to the fullest. In particular, the Haifa museum had a whole room devoted to air pressure, and Bernouilli’s principle, that we managed to use to teach it to Callum and Declan. 7/10 for Haifa, 5/10 for Jerusalem.

And because I think there are a few more practical things needed, I’m going to keep some of my old rating system also.

Cafe factor: Excellent coffee for both museums – with Jerusalem also having an outdoor science playground next door to the coffee shop, within sight of it.
Expense: They were both expensive, particularly Haifa, which cost A$64 for four of us (Jerusalem was $A39)

Overall,  42/50 for Haifa, and 36/50 for Jerusalem.

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