Normally when I tell people, Italians and non-Italians alike, that I live in Trent the response that I get is, “So how do you like Trieste?” Though most people seem to be geographically challenged when it comes to this medieval mountain town, 30,000 miraculously found their way here last weekend. But what, you might ask yourself, would bring so many people to Trent on the hottest weekend of the year? The answer: MUSE. No, not the English rock sensation, but MUSE (moo-zay) the new Museum of Science that was inaugurated in a 24-hour extravaganza.
Similar to the Guggenheim or the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, MUSE is notable not only for what’s inside, but also for what’s outside. The building was designed by architect Renzo Piano, famous for his structures all over the world like the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Shard in London and the New York Times Building in NYC. Taking inspiration from the valley in which Trento is in and its surrounding mountains, Piano designed the building with peaks to mimick the jagged landscape.
The building is also almost completely windowed allowing viewers from outside to see within, and visitors to see the mountains of the Trentino. The sleek, modern architecture certainly plays up on the idea of bringing a shiny new science museum to the city. That being said, the building is a stark contrast to the city center’s Romanesque-Gothic Church and frescoed buildings, perhaps one of the reasons why the museum is slightly away from the heart of city along the Adige river.
Inside the museum the old wedding saying comes to mind: “Something old, something new. Something borrowed, something blue.” Ok, so the blue isn’t really relevant, but the museum is a replacement for the city’s already extant Museum of Science (previously in the city center, 10 minutes away). Various animals, taxidermied or otherwise replicated, were taken from the old property and brought to the new museum. Except instead of being placed in various corners of the museum like a traditional museum, or hanging from the walls like a creepy hunting lodge, all of the animals are suspended from the roof below the open skylight. Everything from birds, to horses, to replica whale skeletons can be seen from every level in this zero-gravity inspired exhibition that bisects the center of the museum giving some “life” to the space.
Trent itself is a city that boasts its tech and innovation activities, hosting some major research centers including Microsoft and FIAT. This naturally leads to the museum’s techie touch with iPad mini guides, interactive projector and screens, and audio demos. There’s even one exhibit where they put what oddly resembles a 7-11 slurpee straw on a metal rod. The point is for you to bite down on the rod which vibrates ever so slightly to create music that only you can hear. Yes, I understand that what I just described sounds like something someone on hallucinogens might say, but I promise it’s all in the name of science!
One really unique feature of the museum is the installation of a full-time FabLab which is a workshop based off of an MIT model for innovative design technology. With equipment like FabLabs 3D printers and laser cutters where creative and technical folk alike can create products using new fangled machines that I personally would be scared to touch/break. The lab is meant to give workshops and demos to visitors and students who can learn how to use and possibly produce things (hopefully not 3D guns) with the equipment on-site. (I interviewed the director of this FabLab on MakeTank, read here).
One other thing to not miss when walking up to the museum is the large greenhouse with banana trees and other tropical plants and animal replicas. The space is meant to mimic a tropical rainforest to help in the study of biodiversity. I personally love botanical gardens, and willingly have, and would, spend hours strolling through them, sitting and thinking. The addition at MUSE is a great way for the museum to promote the environmental aspect of science as well as stress its focus on sustainability.
For the practical details, you’ll be happy to know that you don’t have to wait in line overnight with scorching temperatures to get in. Though you probably won’t get free entry, the museum’s hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10.00 until 18.00 and Saturday from 10.00 until 19.00. The price of regular admission is 9 euro, with a reduced price of 7. Do check out the MUSE official website here: www.muse.it.
About the author
Christina Craver grew up in Silver Spring, MD, where she lived a stone’s throw away from some of the country’s best (and free!) museums. She is, as the Hawaiians would say, “hapa,” and has garnered many confused looks, and some ridiculous guesses, about her background everywhere she goes, from Los Angeles to Riyadh. Christina completed her Masters in EU policy in Florence and, after a stint in the EU parliament, now resides in Trento, Italy. She works in marketing and communication and writes for the satirical blog More Europe! She enjoys watching formulaic t.v. food competition shows, being mediocre at many languages, and confounding people with who she is, where she comes from, and what she’s doing in their part of the world.