Bristol’s We The Curious confirms groundbreaking new exhibition on course to open this November
Wednesday 22 July | Jen Forster
The Bristol science and arts centre says its plans to open bold new exhibition Project What If, which aims to leave people with questions rather than answers, are on track for a November opening.
This November will see the official opening of groundbreaking new exhibition Project What If for the educational charity. Inspired by the real questions Bristolians have asked, the team at We The Curious set about exploring its own set of questions – “What if we designed an exhibition with our city?” and “ What if we created an entire experience based on people’s curiosity?”
The 2020 transformation is a result of three years’ work exploring and developing the new exhibition and marks the next step in the centre’s evolution, setting the tone for many more exciting things to come for the iconic Bristol venue. This year We The Curious is also celebrating 20 years in Bristol.
Plans for Project What If have been progressing steadily as planned, despite the centre’s forced closure in March, part of the national closure of cultural venues following government lockdown guidelines. Redevelopment is underway throughout the ground floor, with the opening still on track for November 2020 when the wider centre will also reopen.
Inspired by 10,000 questions collected from every postcode in the city, Project What If will be the first major science centre exhibition in the UK inspired entirely by the curiosity of a city’s residents.
The project aims to reimagine the science centre experience and will see the foyer and ground floor exhibition spaces completely transformed. The core of the exhibition will be built around seven questions, selected from the thousands of questions submitted by visitors and Bristol residents over the past three years. It will be multidisciplinary, which means ideas will be explained in different and often surprising ways, embracing art as well as science, while celebrating and cultivating curiosity.
Artist's impression of Project What If - credit Kossman dejong
SEVEN QUESTIONS FOR SEVEN NEW EXHIBITION AREAS
The seven selected questions will inform seven exciting new exhibition areas - called ‘constellations’ – covering themes such as illness, rainbows, happiness, the universe, invisibility, soul and time. The other questions have been used to create an interactive questions database for visitors to explore in the ‘John James Theatre of Curiosity’ and the exhibition will feature ‘Open City Lab’, funded by the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, devoted to participation in scientific research as it happens.
We The Curious Projects Producer Amelia Howarth said “Each exhibition area uses high-tech, beautiful design to explore these very different questions in a multitude of ways, covering a huge variety of different disciplines and voices. We’ve worked with so many amazing people, from members and volunteers to partners and schools, as well as the question askers themselves. We want Bristolians of all ages and backgrounds to be proud of the gorgeous exhibition they helped create and for our exhibition to mirror the diversity and beauty of Bristol. We want everyone to feel a part of science and curiosity, at a time where it’s never been more important.”
We The Curious CEO Donna Speed said: “With Project What If we want to challenge preconceived ideas, give a platform to all voices and help remove barriers to participation. Our new exhibition will open up science to all and empower people to participate in real scientific research. Our aim is to place people at the heart of science and present the real world of science - a world that is creative, collaborative, uncertain and inspiring. ”
“Like all science and arts centres around the UK this is not an easy time for us but we are still focused on making this experience as open and collaborative as it can be. We've employed over 100 collaborators, and have been working with researchers and young people across the city to make this happen. We will need the support of our local Bristol community and beyond when we reopen, and we can’t wait to share this with you.”
Project What If was supported by a £3m grant awarded by the Inspiring Science Fund – a partnership between UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Wellcome – a fund created to enable science centres across the UK to develop new STEM-based exhibitions and learning centres, alongside inclusive and creative community programmes, building a sustainable programme for the future. 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.
Being neither a museum, a frontline crisis charity or an art gallery, the science centre is currently not eligible for the recent Government COVID support packages, so is still seeking support from local businesses, trusts and individuals for the remainder, which in the current circumstances is more crucial than ever.
After much thought and consultation the decision has been made to reopen the science centre in November 2020. This is to ensure that when the venue reopens, it is true to the values of We The Curious by providing a rich visitor experience which is safe for all, whilst implementing the latest Government guidelines and scientific research.
ONGOING TRANSFORMATION OF WE THE CURIOUS
The first important step for the organisation formerly known as At-Bristol was to set out its ambitious new vision for the future and its new name: We The Curious. The 2020 transformation and new exhibition marks the next step in the centre’s evolution and will set the tone for many more exciting things to come for the Bristol venue.
We The Curious is an educational charity and interactive science centre in Bristol which brings together science, art, technology, culture and innovation to create positive change for its community and environment and “create a culture of curiosity”. This year We The Curious is celebrating 20 years in Bristol.
For more information, images, interviews or to arrange a press trip, please contact the Wonderland Communications team: Emilie, 07880 404 469, firstname.lastname@example.org
You can follow We The Curious on Twitter (@wethecurious_) Facebook (wethecurious) or Instagram (@wethecurious_). For more information, please visit www.wethecurious.org
About We The Curious
We The Curious was previously known as At-Bristol Science Centre; an educational charity with an aim to “make science accessible to all”, it opened in 2000, and welcomed over 5 million visitors in the past 20 years. At-Bristol relaunched as We The Curious in September 2017, with a new vision that is committed to creating a culture of curiosity.
We The Curious is an idea and a place for everyone. Our venue on Bristol’s harbourside is a bit like an indoor festival, with all sorts of different experiences, where you can interact with exhibits, test stuff out and participate rather than just visit. We’re all about empowering everyone to ask questions and get creative - with boundaries removed between science, art, people and ideas - a culture of curiosity. This year We The Curious is celebrating 20 years in Bristol.
Key partners on the project include:
- Exhibit architects - kossmann.dejong https://www.kossmanndejong.nl/
- Exhibit fabricators - Bruns https://www.bruns.eu/
- Software developers - Calvium https://calvium.com/
- University of Bristol www.bristol.ac.uk
- Community partners including Creative Youth Network, West of England for Inclusive Living (WECIL) and Bridge Learning Campus
Inspiring Science Fund
The Inspiring Science Fund, a partnership between UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Wellcome, has invested £30 million in science centres across the UK, enabling them to revitalise their public offer and to develop more sustainable working practices for the future.
New exhibitions and learning centres, alongside inclusive and creative community programmes, will inspire visitors to engage with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in fun and exciting new ways.
Wellcome exists to improve health by helping great ideas to thrive. We support researchers, we take on big health challenges, we campaign for better science, and we help everyone get involved with science and health research. We are a politically and financially independent foundation.
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), brings together the 7 UK research councils, Innovate UK and a new organisation, Research England, working closely with its partner organisations in the devolved administrations of the UK Government.
The scheme is co-funded by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Wellcome.
About the funding campaign
In addition to the support from the Inspiring Science Fund, Project What If has so far received generous support from: John James Bristol Foundation; The Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851; Garfield Weston Foundation; National Lottery Heritage Fund; Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF); Innovation 4 Growth; Nisbet Trust; Charles Hayward Foundation; Britford Bridge Trust; Kirby Laing Trust; Medlock Charitable Trust; National Lottery Awards For All, an anonymous funder and local individual donors.