Bringing exhibitions to everyone: The Exhibition-in-a-Box’ project

Sindhu M

Science Gallery Bengaluru (SGB) introduces the innovative Exhibition in a Box’ concept, extending the reach of their exhibitions beyond physical confines. Packed with multimedia experiences, these portable boxes bring engaging learning opportunities to diverse audiences, transcending geographical limitations and fostering inclusivity.

Carbon- 'Exhibition-in-a-box' in the making. Photo credits: IndiaBioscience

Science Gallery Bengaluru (SGB) is shaking things up with their innovative Exhibition in a Box’ concept. This program flips the script on traditional exhibitions by bringing knowledge directly to people who might not be able to visit the gallery itself. The inspiration for this project sparked during the tail-end of SGB’s thought-provoking PSYCHE exhibition, which delved into fascinating themes like mental health, brain science, and ethical considerations in research. 

The team at SGB realised that dismantling the exhibition meant shutting away a wealth of valuable resources that they had meticulously curated. They reflected on a way to keep these materials accessible for students, educators, and lifelong learners of all ages. The Exhibition-in-a-Box initiative was born from a former design intern’s graduate program project.

What is in the box?

In the Exhibition-in-a-Box, key parts of the exhibition are literally packed into a portable format that can travel anywhere! Each box contains multimedia components like films, discussions, games, and even augmented reality experiences related to the original exhibition themes. Using a variety of multimedia formats allows people to explore the topics in an engaging and interactive manner that goes beyond mere reading or watching. Sherlyn James, a learning associate at SGB, says, we asked the question,

How would you take the exhibition to people who are not based in Bangalore?

The concept of an Exhibition-in-a-Box allows the exhibition to live on beyond its end date and extend its reach to people who cannot travel to the city of the exhibit. In doing so, it transcends the limitations of physical space, travel distances, and logistics.

The first Exhibition-in-a-Box included key exhibits, programmes, and activities from the 2022 online exhibition of SGB-PSYCHE. These boxes have already visited many formal and informal spaces — such as schools, colleges, learning centres, non-profit organisations working with underprivileged groups — along with the India Science Festival 2024.The first iteration of the Exhibition-in-a-Box covered five exhibitions by the online PSYCHE’ exhibition of SGB. The exhibits that were boxed in the previous iteration were The Asylum’, Change my mind, Hamlet’s Live’, McGill Pain Questionnaire’, and Schizophrenia and the brain’.

Who is it for?

The Exhibition-in-a-Box is designed for young learners aged between 15 and 28, though individuals from other age groups can also engage with it. Many enthusiastic educators have reached out to the SGB team to integrate these innovative resources into their classrooms. While there are general guidelines for using the box, it offers flexibility, allowing educators to tailor its use to best suit their learners’ needs. The team acknowledges that people of different ages, educational backgrounds, and cultural contexts may respond to and interact with the box differently. To make it more inclusive, they have created versions of the boxes in English, Hindi and the local Kannada language. 

While the previous iteration of the box was designed by the design intern, this year, the boxes will be designed by mediators of the Carbon exhibition at the end of the exhibition season. These mediators are trained by the artists themselves and are responsible for initiating conversations with the public about the exhibits. They have extensively interacted with the public during the exhibition. Carbon marks the first exhibition of SGB with full-time mediators. Presently, there are nine full-time mediators who have engaged in multiple conversations with the public on the 37 exhibits of Carbon. Ahalya Acharya, Communications Manager at SGB, says,

Our mediators will gain a comprehensive understanding of the Carbon exhibition by conversing with the public. This hands-on experience will inform how they design and create the box activities and resources to communicate those concepts effectively.

Each box corresponding to each exhibit will be unique, featuring different activities and cards tailored to best align with the specific exhibit. There will be no two similar boxes. 

A participant from the 16th Young Investigators’ Meeting (YIM 2024) interacting with the box on the exhibit ‘Foresta Inclusive’ from the Carbon exhibition. Photo credits: IndiaBioscience
A participant from the 16th Young Investigators’ Meeting (YIM 2024) interacting with the box on the exhibit Foresta Inclusive’ from the Carbon exhibition. Photo credits: IndiaBioscience

The upcoming box in the making

As the Carbon exhibition by SGB continues to enthral visitors, the team is buzzing with excitement as they design the next iteration of the box. This upcoming Carbon exhibition-in-a-box will consist of three key elements: exhibit cards, experiment cards, and explore cards. Out of the 37 exhibits in the physical exhibition, five of them will be featured in the Exhibition-in-a-Box: In the making of self’, Foresta inclusive’, Digital consumption’, Carbon takes flight’, and The coarse fabric of being human’.

The Foresta inclusive exhibition by Jane Tingley explores what trees can sense, revealing that trees are far more aware of their environment than we might think. Scientists have developed special sensor pods equipped with eight or nine sensors capable of detecting wind speed, carbon dioxide levels, particulate matter, and light intensity. These sensors are attached to trees, effectively turning them into environmental data hubs. To make this data accessible to the public, artists are collaborating with scientists and data analysts to create visualisations that bring the information to life. This exhibit is included in the Exhibition-in-a-Box, featuring an explainer card, a QR code directing the users to a real-time tree data visualisations, and an experiment card prompts for conducting experiments with trees in their surroundings. 

The SGB team is currently developing boxes for the other Carbon exhibits. They are also planning to expand their reach by making the boxes available in other local languages. The team is also collecting feedback from educators and young adults who have interacted with the Psyche boxes to improve the design of future iterations. Despite the Carbon exhibition concluding in June 2024, the exhibition will continue to live in the Exhibition-in-a-Box format. 

Written By