Project What If

It all starts with a question...

Who was the first person to see sand? Can your soul be seen by science? Why do rainbows make people happy? 

Inspired by real questions from the people of Bristol, our new ground floor experience is about the topics and ideas that intrigue us all.

With play and curiosity at its heart, Project What If, is a chance to explore these topics in new and unexpected ways, bringing together science and art, and many different voices. 



Exhibition spaces

The question constellations

From the 10,000 questions collected from every postcode of Bristol, seven were selected as the inspiration for a cluster of new interactive exhibits and art works.

Here's what to expect:


Explore light, the secrets of colour and the science of happiness.


Come face to face with an early ancestor, chart our place in Earth's history, dig into unexpected stories.


Reflect on what makes you unique, explore the habitats of aliens, broadcast a message into space.


Peer inside the Tardis, become the hands on a human clock, discover how you measure something you can’t even see.


Be fooled by tricks of the light, take a close-up look at how we see, get ready to disappear.


Reflect on the nature of disease, health inequalities and how our experience of illness shapes our lives.


Get lost in moral puzzles, marvel at the beauty of our brains, have a chat with our resident robot.

Open City Lab

Our new ground floor is also home to Open City Lab, a collaborative working laboratory, where you can meet scientists, join them in their explorations and take part in research. See the what's on page for current programming in this space. 


The Box gallery

Take a moment for reflection in ‘The COVID-19 Diaries’, an edited collection of personal stories from Bristol and beyond in our dedicated gallery space.


The John James Theatre of Curiosity

A place for questioning and discussion, and somewhere to take a pause. You can leave your own questions in our digital question space. Who knows what your question might inspire?

Exhibition content

If you've visited us before, you'll notice that Project What If is a little different from our previous exhibitions. Project What If explores the human side of science. As well as traditional science content, it includes individual stories and touches on subjects that you might find unusual in a science centre, such as religion, sexuality, illness and mental health. 

Our education team can provide further information on this in advance of your visit. 


Our thanks

Project What If has been supported by a £3m grant awarded by the Inspiring Science Fund – a partnership between UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Wellcome. The support for the charity and new exhibition has been hugely successful in addition to this, with over £900,000 donated by other generous funders.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this project.