Museums and the Web

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Evidence: How Do We Know What We Know?

In-house media and web development staff at the Exploratorium

Evidence: How Do We Know What We Know? is a richly layered online exhibition from the Exploratorium, San Francisco's renowned museum of science, art, and human perception.

The site uses current research in human development as a case study for exploring the ways in which scientists use evidence in their work. It offers a window into the thinking of some of the world's leading scientists as they explore what makes us human, and gives users a chance to reflect on their our own thoughts and beliefs.

Like a museum exhibition made up of many individual exhibits, Evidence offers a variety of content, including immersive interactives, informational articles, audio downloads of conversations with scientists, and video interviews with researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. A community tool called "MyEvidence" lets users examine and share their own processes of assessing scientific evidence, and a downloadable widget offers links to science in the news. All of these elements-and much more-are available in both English and Spanish, and are appropriate for interested adults of all ages.

At the heart of the site is an intuitive interface that organizes the content into two main areas of inquiry. Five sections-Observing Behavior, Collecting Clues, Investigating Relationships, Finding Patterns, and Considering Possibilities-focus on a case study of human origins, exploring everything from how archeologists figure out where to hunt for fossils to the genetic evidence for the reasons only humans can speak. Four other sections-How Science Works, Can You Believe It?, MyEvidence, and Podcasts & More-all provide different perspectives on scientific evidence, ranging from a "user's guide" for assessing the scientific claims we all encounter in our daily lives to following the processes of the scientific method in action.

The Evidence site contains:
-27 short videos totaling almost 40 minutes of video content
-26 in-depth articles written for lay readers on everything from how chimpanzees use tools to assessing scientific claims in popular culture
-3 podcasts (embedded files; listen or download)
-an interactive Web widget/science news RSS feeder
-a downloadable fold-up booklet
-1 interactive community tool (MyEvidence) and 8 integrated interactives (Geology for Fossil Hunters; Tracing Fossil Finds: A Hominid Timeline; Extracting DNA from Neanderthal Bones; Look Inside a Tooth; Building a Virtual Skull; Sharing Findings: Anatomy of a Peer-Reviewed Paper; How Science Works)

* The site was built in Flash 9, integrating content into a dynamic user interface from multiple sources, including a streaming Flash media server, dual language text and graphics from XML, and porting files into PHP pages for low-bandwidth users.

* All articles, interactives, and video transcripts are available in low-bandwidth-including handheld devices and ADA-accessible versions-in both Spanish and English.

* Video, audio, and photos were shot on location by Exploratorium staff at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. Including research and development, the site took three years to complete using the skills of more than 30 staff members led by a core team of 8.

* The user interface design and back-end programming were done by Exploratorium multimedia developers; external resources were used only for video captioning, language translation, and some image resources.

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shazan's picture

Evidently the Exploratorium has done it again!
Truely educational yet at the same time entertaining and emensely engaging - Excellent!