We didn’t have high hopes of the Montreal Science Centre, after our experience of the Oslo Science museum and the lukewarm reviews from tripadvisor. But we loved it. In the end, we had to drag the boys away when we got hungry (the reverse of the usual museum experience)!
It is located on the waterfront of the old town, which makes for a nice atmosphere (which must be quite different in summer when the whole waterfront is buzzing).
So using the usual scale:
1. The Museum must engage and excite – This really worked for us. There were two fantastic activities. One was making your own film about a science topic (putting together prerecorded footage to support your own view about a science topic, plus recording your own intro and conclusions), really geared for kids older than Callum and Declan, but they managed well with our help. The second was a game in which you tried to manage the world environment by making decisions about how to invest in your population, the environment, and the economy. Thought provoking and entertaining at the same time. Plus the standard science interactive section was well put together with some entertaining touches (although not as big as some others) 9/10.
2. The exhibits must work and not baffle – Everything worked that I could see. I was impressed. There was a futuristic area which was a little baffling but I think that was the intent, so I haven’t given it full marks! 9/10.
3. A play area should not substitute for teaching science in the museum. The science hands on area did lend itself to a bit of playing (notably the part where you could try and make a bubble around yourself, but it was well enough explained, to lend itself to parents trying to make children read the explanations. Here I was particularly impressed by the make your own animation area – where animation was explained by getting you to make your own short (30s) animated film. 9/10.
4. Televisions and computers are no longer, in themselves, cool, or more generally, everything should be up to date. This was very up to date. Amazing use of video technology, in all sorts of areas to enhance the experience. 10/10.
5. Museums should tell a story. Here I think the museum wasn’t that great. There were lots of different aspects which were great, but not so much a coherent whole. Montreal bills itself as a green city and there was a bit of that theme, but it wasn’t that obvious. 7/10.
And for the practical things:
Cafe factor: There was a little cafe at the entrance which served food that wasn’t too unhealthy. Not amazing, but edible. The coffee was OK too.
Expense: A family ticket (without an IMAX movie) was C$36.50 (plus tax). Probably about average for a western country.