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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.


Core concepts


Microplastics...


...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.



Pictured above: Two drastically different scales of microplastic pollution


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


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.






Exhibit walkthrough


Entrance

As a visitor enters the exhibit, the lighting changes drastically as they enter this immersive and isolated space, priming them to inquire and to observe. Visitors also notice that ground has a moving river that guides them to see the source of microplastics in the ocean. Although not pictured here, the river flows around visitors and obstacles touching the ground.


Introduction

As visitors walk further, they’ll see a brief introduction that contextualizes the exhibit for them. It is slightly lifted off the ground to create a more open area.


Interactive Floor

The ground 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.

Feel free to play with the interactive floor simulation here.


Observing Effects

As viewers move around large coasting microscopes, 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.





Tangible Objects

At the back of the exhibit, visitors see the firsthand products that cause microplastic pollution. Text that is in front of the tangible projects explain individual mechanisms of plastic breakdown and discuss major corporate and political entities that are responsible for these products.  




Commiting to Change

Finally, viewers at this point likely want to know how to make a meaningful impact. However, I wanted to disregard common practices of offsetting blame on companies producing waste to an individual.

With knowledge of the companies, practices, and objects that cause microplastic pollution, visitors can commit to change by writing on a wall with a post-it note. By seeing the collective actions of other visitors, the existing paradigm of individual blame for pollution changes in context.