Reviewed by Fiona Bessey-Bushnell
After a quick glance at a family photo, most people think that my older son looks like me and his younger brother looks like my husband. Our personal experience at this exhibition revealed clues to this phenomenon – mystery solved!
The Science Museum of Virginia’s new temporary exhibit, Identity: An Exhibition of You, claims guests are in for “a personalized experience that is unique for each guest.” And Identity delivers just that, with primarily hands-on interactive exhibits. As you enter the exhibit, you see larger-than-life vertical monitors, showcasing different people’s perspectives on what makes them unique. The exhibit opens with an interactive psychedelic display, where guests can move, dance and hop and view a colored mirrored image on the screen. The more people the merrier, as the outlines of body shapes overlap and morph into different colors. This exhibit introduces guests by asking: How do I influence your identity? How do you influence my identity? This was a hit for toddlers up to the senior set and was a great way to pose the questions that would be the basis of exploring Identity.
There are tons of exhibits that audiences of all ages can grab onto, such as learning about genetics and what makes siblings similar (or not). Guests can also explore the ways in which height is determined with interactive measuring stations, and learn that the equation for height is part genetics and part environment (Translation: Eat your veggies kids!). Discovering the genetic basis of fingerprints, hand and fingernail shape, and even the presence of dimples becomes exciting through hands-on learning. Learning about how the different parts of the brain work includes real-life simulation and active movement that my 6- and 8-year-old could easily relate to. Their favorite exhibit was being able to fine-tune a music composition to showcase their very different personalities.
Identity also threw in a few health tips for extra measure. It was enlightening, to say the least, to take a photo of ourselves and watch the computer simulation demonstrate how sun exposure, smoking, or eating poorly could affect your appearance (and it’s not pretty)!
The exhibit also addressed some thought-provoking issues – including ethnicity, gender, and bias. Imagining yourself as a different gender or ethnicity were meaningful exercises. The exhibits encouraging us to examine our own biases were interesting. There were lots of adults actively debating with each other and comparing notes during and after the simulations. Although these kinds of exhibits were well designed and dynamic, these profound issues were easily lost on my elementary school aged kids. However, there was still plenty to keep them engaged. That said, younger children can enjoy portions of the exhibit with guidance. Ten and up are well-suited to explore all aspects of the exhibition.
Computer simulators required some patience to load and were a little tricky to align yourself within the guidelines of the simulator. However, since every single exhibit station is interactive, it makes the experience very personalized and guests can hop on over to other displays without impacting the overall flow. You will want to set aside at least an hour to explore all this exhibit has to offer.
Identity: An Exhibition of You runs now through January 4. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 to 5:00 and Sunday 11:30 to 5:00. Tickets for adults (exhibits only) are $11.00. Adults ages 60 and older and children, 4-12 receive a $1 discount off general admission prices. Active military are admitted free to exhibits. More information is available at Science Museum of Virginia or by calling 804-864-1400.
Consider getting more bang for your buck by also visiting the Science Museum’s newest permanent exhibit: Boost! A New Definition of Healthy Fun for Kids and Families | Richmond Family Magazine