University of Melbourne Magazine

Museum on the edge

  • Innovation

    Imagine a museum where you can trace your heartbeat, test your blood or learn to pick locks. By Kate Stanton (MJourn 2016).

    Science Gallery Melbourne

    An artist’s impression of the Science Gallery Melbourne.

    Museums don’t have to be stu­ffy collections of artefacts, says Rose Hiscock. They can be engaging, edgy – even transformative.

    “What I’m interested in is impact,” she says. “I’m interested in changing people’s lives.”

    That’s Hiscock’s dynamic vision for Science Gallery, an unusual blend of science museum, art gallery and events space coming to the University in 2020.

    Hiscock (BCom 1991), a lifelong arts administrator, had been director of Sydney’s impressive Powerhouse Museum for two-and-a-half years when she was tapped to spearhead the ambitious new project in Melbourne.

    Science Gallery Melbourne is part of an international network that explores connections between art and science.

    The first gallery opened at Trinity College Dublin in 2008. Seven more are planned for cities around the world, all embedded within educational institutions, and all tasked with attracting young people to think creatively about science and innovation.

    Hiscock says she was inspired by a 2015 visit to the Dublin gallery’s SECRET exhibition, where she was asked to hand over her credit card, only to find later that the museum had displayed her personal information as part of the artwork.

    “It kind of taps into the zeitgeist,” she says of Science Gallery. “We can be really playful and really experimental. I think about what we’re going to do in our exhibitions as a laboratory, as an experiment, rather than as a really highly polished contemporary art experience.”

    Rose Hiscock at the entrance of her temporary University home, the historic Grattan Street Gatehouse.

    Rose Hiscock at the entrance of her temporary University home, the historic Grattan Street Gatehouse. Picture: Chris Hopkins.

    Hiscock wants Science Gallery Melbourne to help dispel the notion that arts and science are separate and competing disciplines. True innovation, she says, comes from combining the two. “Arts and science both are endeavours in the pursuit of the unknown,” she says. “They’re both about exploration.”

    The Science Galleries are particularly aimed at those aged 15 to 25, in the hope of inspiring more students to take an interest in the skills of the future – science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

    Hiscock is thinking big; she wants young people to be ready to solve the world’s biggest challenges, from climate change to the refugee crisis. “If we’re going to solve wicked problems as a society we have to use our whole brain. We have to use both the curious and creative minds.”

    Hiscock’s first exhibition at Science Gallery Melbourne, Blood, will run in collaboration with Science Gallery London starting in June. Potential contributors were encouraged to submit works addressing blood as it relates to menstruation, doping, HIV testing, biological identity and other topics.

    It will run as pop-up exhibitions around the city until the building that will house Science Gallery Melbourne is completed.

    Exclusive 3010 competition for alumni:

    Join Rose Hiscock for a Director’s private viewing – an insight into the stories behind the Blood exhibition. Fifteen double passes are available for readers.