Zooming into Microplastics: An Exhibit Proposal

Assignment: Create a temporary exhibition featuring an issue Consider how technology can augment content, increase learning and/or make the museum experience more interactive.


...are everywhere. 
We have found plastic at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, and plastic fragments in the placentas of unborn babies.

...are dangerous.
For example, microplastics carry endocrine-disrupting chemicals throughout our systems that reduce fertility, cause obesity, and cause cancer.

...are hidden and still being discovered.
Due to the difficulty of detection, they remain invisible and are still in the process of being studied by the scientific community, as they have only entered the mainstream a decade ago.

...come from tangible objects & corporations.
They come from tangible objects and corporations that constantly blame us for not using plastic straws while creating unfathomable amounts of waste themselves.

...but most importantly, microplastics can be reduced.

Exhibit overview 

This exhibit is focused a discovery of microplastics– a process that is augmented by interaction. Visitors will uncover firsthand the prevalence of microplastics, health and environmental damages, and ways to circumvent pollution. As a result, they feel a deeper connection to this issue that is both emotional and analytical.

Visitor journey / Parti diagram

As they walk into a space, visitors are initially contextualized to the problem. Visitors then move around this exhibit guided by large movable microscopes. As they move deeper into the space, the fragments of plastic become larger and larger until they can be connected to recognizable artifacts. Finally, after discovering about microplastics, visitors learn about their sources at the very back of the exhibit and learn about ways to address this issue through direct action.

Core interactions in the exhibit

As viewers move these coasting microscopes with handles around, they see reveal different scales in magnitude of microplastics as they move upstream. At one place, a viewer would see the smallest microplastics using Raman Spectroscopy. Moving forward, they would see plastics smaller than the width of a human hair under a high-powered microscope. At the the very top, they can see lower-powered magnifications of larger plastics.

The “microscope” that visitors use are a screen under a set of lens that create barrel distortion and chromatic aberration, creating the impression of actually looking through a microscope. As viewers observe different levels, they learn about various methods of microplastic detection as well as their health and environmental impacts. At any point in their learning journey, they can scroll up to learn more.

The ground also moves around the footprint of the microscope, further indicating to visitors that the microscope can be moved. The area around the microscope provides a preview of how a microscope moves around– it builds a spatial relationship between the water around it and the hidden microplastics inside.