As a museum, the Exploratorium has been on the Web since 1994 and we’ve developed online exhibits, artworks, live Webcasts, and other experiments. Before blogging was recognized as such we wrote expedition journals in Antarctica and dispatches from science conferences, like the AAAS meetings in 2001 and a couple of NCAR “usable science workshops” on La Nina and El Nino in the Galapagos.
But these early experiments in proto-blogging have been eclipsed by a robust community of folks who write about science and society, about the museum’s role in the public understanding of science, and who share tips about developing exhibits, communicating research, and getting in touch with our diverse audiences. So, some of us at the Exploratorium have been mulling it over and we decided to launch our own blogging experiment. (I should mention that much of what we do here can be described as experimental, we like to think of ourselves as a learning and research institution which thankfully means that we can chalk up failed experiments as learning experiences and move on.)
I’m the first out of the blocks and I hope you’ll bear with me as I figure out how I fit into this interesting online ecosystem. My goal is to contribute something interesting and unique that reflects the richness of what happens at the Exploratorium. I want to share some behind the scenes glimpses as we develop new projects for the museum floor and the web—in part because I’m often asked by scientists and others at conferences about what we’re working on and whether they can get involved in or partner with us on museum programs. I also want to reflect some of the compelling conversations and the fascinating people who walk through the door and interact with our staff and the public audience. In my job as director of the Osher Fellowship program, I’ve had the great privilege of hosting visits by some incredible scientists, artists, and scholars including E.O. Wilson, Elizabeth Blackburn, Christian deDuve, Cynthia Kenyon, Fred Wilson, and Lewis Hyde. I want to introduce these folks to you and share some of the interesting discussions we have with them. I’m also compelled in this effort by our director, Dennis Bartels, who wants the Exploratorium to be both an outside in and an inside out organization. So some of the blog will be devoted to giving you a peek behind the curtain at what we’re doing but we also want to invite our audience to contribute ideas and feedback that will help us to be more responsive to your interests, needs and ideas. As we think about our local, national and international audiences, we want to continue developing programs and projects that help make science accessible and relevant to everyday life. And we’ll invite you to get involved as we figure out ways to make sense of some of the most socially important, controversial, and complex science issues of the day, such as stem cell research, global warming, and the evolution wars. At the same time, we won’t lose sight of the fun parts of science, the everyday cool stuff that the Exploratorium is known for. So, please I want to hear from you and hope this opens a fun and fruitful dialog.