We caught sight of the Nemo Science Museum yesterday, from a distance. The boys hadn’t realised there was a science museum in Amsterdam. But even Declan decided that a bike ride had to take second place to a visit.

It is a full fledged science experience centre – not many historical exhibits, but lots of explaining and hands on science. We had a great time. Here’s the review.

1. The Museum must engage and excite – At first it felt like the bog standard science exhibition centre, with a display of soap bubble mixture that you could make shapes from.  The kind of thing that keeps kids entertained, but without much rhyme or reason. But very quickly all sorts of exciting exhibits emerged, with the best part being a chemistry lab, complete with white coats, and 12 different experiments you could do. There was also a five year long experiment where someone tried to create life out of primordial soup and periodic electricity. 9/10.

2. The exhibits must work and not baffle – I don’t think we found an exhibit that didn’t work. (except the entertaining Rube Goldberg machine, but that was a show, rather than an exhibit 10/10.

3. A play area should not substitute for teaching science in the museum. There were the occasional play bits, but pretty much everything was there for a reason, and the reason was reasonably OK to find. A good example was a conveyer belt for coloured balls. Many museums have this kind of contraption, which has various different levers, pulleys, conveyer belts, etc to move balls around. This museum had converted this into a factory, where visitors got to sort their own little set of balls into the types that other visitors asked for, and were judged on their performance. Those who wanted to bang and crash without thought could do so, but it was pretty easy to find the science behind each exhibit 9/10.

4. Televisions and computers are no longer, in themselves, cool, or more generally, everything should be up to date. There were the occasional places where age was showing, but pretty minor. The most amusing, I thought, was the communications section (which was mostly about the discovery of the telephone and telegraph) which had a series of dates on the wall – ending with 1998 – world wide web starts – 2005 ??? what will happen? 9/10.

5. Museums should tell a story (I’m going to be a harsh marker here). The museum was a set of different stories. But most of the exhibits gave you a story arc that made sense. My favourite was the communications one, which explained the various stages in discovery of the telephone, telegraph, etc. 9/10.

Overall 46/50

And for the practical things:

Cafe factor: Two or three cafes scattered through the museum with some reasonably healthy lunch snacks (vegetarian pizza and fresh rolls). The coffee was quite tasty.
Expense: Very expensive. There is no discount for children. 50 Euro for a family of four. And also the first place where we had to pay for the cloakroom (albeit only 50 cents).