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Science in Museums: Forget Tyrannosaurus- there’s a new “rex” at London’s Science Museum

Posted by Phillippa Pitts on February 13, 2013 in Science in Museums |

by columnist Catherine Sigmond

Maybe I have a weekend of blizzard-induced daydreams of traveling far and wide (anything to get out of the house, really) to thank, but recently I have been craving a more global perspective when contemplating the museum world.

According to Museum Planner, seven out of the ten most visited science centers in 2010/2011 are located outside of the United States (data for 2012 is still being compiled).

Last week, one of these top visitor-grossing museums opened an exhibit featuring a £640,000 ($1 million) bionic man complete with artificial organs, synthetic blood, and fully functioning robotic limbs.

“Rex,” as he is being called, was created by a team of roboticists for a new documentary entitled “How to Build a Bionic Man.”

And though his stature may be small compared to that of his dinosaur predecessor, his precision grip could certainly prove formidable to our familiar three-clawed friend.

The bionic man, currently on display at the London Science Museum, is part of an exhibition exploring changing perceptions of human identity with a focus on recent developments in robotics and bionics.

Along with the documentary, which aired last week on the UK’s Channel 4, the exhibit sheds light on recent developments in bionic technology and introduces visitors to the ways in which science is allowing people to enhance their bodies, overcome disabilities, and transform their identity through mind-boggling developments in medical technology.

Take a look at this short video featured in The Guardian to see Rex in action.

Sadly, the bionic man is only display until March 13th, 2013. So what else does the second-most visited science museum in the world have in store for those of us who can’t get to London before then? Well, according to their masterplan (which I think we can all agree should henceforth replace ‘mission statement’ in the American museum lexicon), the museum is planning a series of changes that should only serve to increase their already staggeringly high visitorship (2.7 million in 2010/2011 alone).

The renovated museum will feature a new Media Space opening in September 2013, as well as a new permanent gallery “celebrating the inventions and technologies in communications that have transformed our public and private lives” launching in 2014. Also in the works are new exhibitions on maths, the role of spectacle and display in 18th and 19th century science, space, and medicine in the 21st century.

So despite the fact that, like his dinosaur namesake, bionic Rex won’t be sticking around for long, you’ll be sure to see some exciting things if you pay the museum a visit next time you’re across the pond.

For more features on some of the fantastic initiatives taking place at the other six most-visited international science centers and museums check back every Wednesday.

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