Project What If

Project What If artist's impression. Credit: Kossman.dejong

We’re all about people's questions and curiosity – that’s what drives us. 

This November, we’re opening a bold new exhibition, Project What If. It will be the first major science centre exhibition in the UK all about the curiosity of a city. 


Project What If uses questions asked by real people to delve into the real world of science. Science can be creative, collaborative and inspiring. It has never been more important.



What if we built an exhibition with the people of our city?

Over the past three years, we’ve gathered over 10,000 questions from people in every postcode of Bristol. We've done this both in our venue and out in the city with our silver Curious Cube.  


With the help of some of our community partners, staff and volunteers we whittled the list down to just seven final questions. The selected questions are about themes like happiness, the universe, invisibility, illness and time.  


Each question will be explored through a cluster of exhibits in the Project What If exhibition space. We're calling these clusters 'constellations'.

'Each exhibition area uses high-tech, beautiful design to explore these very different questions in lots 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, the question askers themselves and people who have never even stepped foot in our doors.

We want Bristolians of all ages and backgrounds to be proud of the gorgeous exhibition they helped create and for that exhibition to mirror the diversity and beauty of Bristol itself. We want everyone to feel a part of science and curiosity, at a time where it’s never been more important.” - Amelia Howarth, Projects Producer

Image: Dan Watkiss

We’ve been working away on the project during the COVID pandemic, though it has been a bit more difficult than we planned! New challenges have meant that we've often needed to work in completely new ways. 


We've continued to test out how we can bring the themes of the questions to life with you. It's important for us to know what they make you think of and how different ideas make you feel.  


So we've been running user testing sessions virtually with visitors, members and new faces to We The Curious. We’ve pooled the ideas that came from lots of different people, including researchers, magicians, skateboarders and students.


Image: Lisa Whiting

What if we could place people at the heart of science?

We've also been continuing to work with our community partners across Bristol through our MakeSpace project. Each partner is designing an exhibit, together with an artist, in response to one of our constellation questions. The exhibit will be made, and you'll be able to experience it when you visit Project What If. 


With Project What If we're aiming to open up science by putting people at the heart of it. Alongside the seven exhibit constellations, you'll also be able to get involved in two exciting features:

  • 'Open City Lab', a ground-breaking area where you'll be able to take part in real scientific research as it happens.  
  • The ‘John James Theatre of Curiosity’, a place to explore visitors' curious questions in new and unexpected ways. 


Over the coming weeks we'll be sharing lots more exciting Project What If updates.  


Watch this space and our social media channels for more info about the constellations, MakeSpace project commissions and how to book tickets.  

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