Rio Museum of Tomorrow
View of the museum from the port side of Praca Maua. Photograph by Byron Prujansky.
Museums + Heritage, Rio de Janeiro’s Museum of Tomorrow – an accessible public building for our time: Q&A with Luiz Alberto Oliveira, 10 October 2016
The Museu do Amanhã (Museum of Tomorrow) will be almost a year old when Oliveira and Fernandes join other keynote speakers including Museums Association president, David Fleming, Jackie Kay, the national poet for Scotland and Oonagh Aitkin, chief executive of Volunteering Matters at the Glasgow event from November 7-9.
Here we talk to Oliveira, who tells us about the museum’s founding principles, its ongoing work with the community and the challenges of incorporating the uncertainties of the future into a museum.
What are the topics you will be discussing at the Museums Association Conference?
Myself, as Chief Curator, and Alexandre Fernandes, head of Audience Development of the Museum of Tomorrow (MoT), will present a brief description of the museum’s project and purposes, as well as some results achieved after its opening (on the occasion of the MA Conference, MoT will be 11 months old!) and review some strategies concerning our neighbours in Rio de Janeiro’s historical downtown.
How would you describe your role at the Museum of Tomorrow?
I try to collaborate with the team to keep up moral and also the major guidelines of the project. We are a science museum, where contemporary science concepts and resources are applied to offer our visitors a journey of exploration of possible future scenarios – regarding planetary, environmental, cultural, social, cognitive, effective, personal, technical, political and ethical issues. I guess that most of the time I’m in charge of bringing up potentially interesting ideas for discussion – which for our team most probably translates to chief troublemaker.
How is the Museum of Tomorrow to other museums?
The museum’s main exhibition is structured upon a sequence of experiences, grouped in several expographic topics, each comprising different scientific matters and presenting the great questions that mankind has always asked itself: Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we? Where are we heading to? How do we want to get there, that is, which values do we want to convey to future generations? Through this experiential content, the visitors can explore and appraise possible future scenarios that may take place within the bounds of some major trends that, according to our science consultants, shall take part in the shaping of the next decades. Therefore, unlike other organisations dedicated to conserving some repository of items or works, the museum’s content – data reports, estimates, forecasts – must be constantly updated, to keep up with science discoveries and advances (and so avoiding to become, very quickly, a Museum of Yesterday!). This priority, in turn, led us to develop a permanent set of exhibiting frames, where an ever-changing, all-digital content is displayed. Since the museum’s opening, in fact, we have already performed more than 80 updates, ranging from new views about the human microbiome to the detection of gravitational waves. As far as we know, there is no other science centre with such characteristics.