Sunday, October 7, 2007

Museum of Science and Technology in Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm sports over 70 museums, a number of whick involve science in some way. The Museum of Science and Technology is one of these major science-related museums and was inspired (as was the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry in the U.S.) by the Deutsches Museum (the directors having been colleagues).

Founded in 1924 and moved to its current location in the 1930s, the entry gallery to the museum has collections on power and transportation, anchored by a huge steam engine that staff members can operate (though not with steam). Included in this gallery are cars, planes, bicycles, motorcycles and some Swedish engines, hydropower turbines, and related hardware.

One corner of the main entry gallery leads down to a mine exhibition, which takes visitors through the history of mining in Sweden, some of the major mining products, the smelting process, and products made from Swedish ores.

Other older galleries include a machine shop with overhead leather belt-driven equipment.

Nearby is a room devoted to Swedish inventions, including the Crescent-type adjustable wrench, the centrifugal cream separator used on farms, and the first taxi-fare meter.

One room highlights the work of Christopher Polhem, an early industrialist and engineer who developed a factory using mass production in the late 17th century and then, as a teacher of technology, created an “alphabet” of 80 mechanisms. He believed that a person could invent any conceivable machine using these mechanisms, and the museum has four cases of them, dating back 300 years (these are believed to be all that survive).

One gallery is devoted to Swedish women inventors and highlights a number of their devices, ranging from automobile seats that are more comfortable to a pocket defibrillator to an anti-rape belt that requires two hands to undo (presumably allowing the victim time to get away or strike the attacker).

A very popular area of interactive exhibits called “Teknorama” includes a number of hands-on favorites ranging from pulleys, levers, and gears, to the ubiquitous “Mind Ball.”

Although the museum does not have any current exhibits related to climate change, it hosted an interactive exhibit on alternative energy in the recent past called “Grasping Climate.” The exhibition was developed by Teknikens Hus in Lulea, Sweden and will be reviewed in a subsequent posting.

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