What is a Science and Art Museum?

The Rhode Island Museum of Science and Art (RIMOSA) focuses on the building blocks of both art and science; curiosity, observation, experimentation and communication.

Both artists and scientists observe their surroundings and seek to make sense of the world around them. Curiosity and creativity drive their experimentation. These are the qualities that need to be encouraged and fostered in ourselves and our children, so there will be innovators – in art or science or both – in coming generations.

RIMOSA’s emphasis is on open-ended experiences designed to kindle curiosity and encourage creative experimentation. Instead of viewing a model volcano, for example, visitors to RIMOSA will discover fluids of differing viscosities and tools which they may use to manipulate and interact with those fluids. Interactive materials would include hollow tubes in a range of sizes, bowls, weights, and hoses which emit gentle, steady streams of air. How visitors approach and use these materials is up to them – an exercise in pure experimentation, observation, creativity and innovation.

Patrons may wish to dive right in, or ask for instruction. They may watch visitors who are already involved, or be actively engaged by visitors who are eager to share what they have found. Cooperative learning is common with these sorts of exhibits. Our goal is to wean visitors away from asking what they are “supposed to do” and use their own imaginations to see what they CAN do.

Other exhibits may involve sand, movement (kinetic sculptures, dance, robotics, vibration), sound, light or other subjects. The open ended nature of these exhibits allows them to be both art and science. Their nature depends on what one brings, learns and takes away from them. This ambiguity of visual and performance art and science will create exhibits and programs that will appeal to different learning styles, and instill themselves in visitors’ memories in a variety of distinct ways.

As the founder of the San Francisco Exploratorium, Frank Oppenheimer, explained: “[A]rtists make different kinds of discoveries about nature than do physicists or geologists…But both artists and scientists help us notice and appreciate things in nature that we had learned to ignore or had never been taught to see. Both art and science are needed to fully understand nature and its effects on people.”