Big Ideas, Tiny Museums

Imagine walking through the mall and suddenly coming across a box full of information to explore. MICRO, a company that produces tiny museums, is cramming small exhibits into boxes that can be placed in unexpected places. With the hope of integrating science and learning into people’s day-to-day lives.


Imagine walking through the mall and suddenly coming across a box full of information to explore.

MICRO, a company that produces tiny museums, is cramming small exhibits into boxes that can be placed in unexpected places, with the hope of integrating science and learning into people's day-to-day lives.

Our partner 'Science Friday' has the story.


The museum lures people in by being unexpected.

We have very carefully made it possible that you can approach it from all sides.

You know, we do put a lot of thought into how to make the object itself feel like an addition to the room, to feel like a beautiful thing.

Like, we can design this is in a different way to just make it informative and inexpensive to produce, and it becomes actually more a social experience.

♪♪ I'm Amanda Schochet, and I co-founded MICRO, which is creating a fleet of 6-foot-tall science museums that can go anywhere.

We have 15 exhibits packed into this 6-foot-tall box.

By shrinking this information down into boxes that can go everywhere, replicating the boxes, and putting them out into shopping malls, hospital waiting rooms, airports, all these transit hubs, we're getting them into people's spaces, you know, welcoming people in.

We want it to feel like a human-scale experience.

Traditional museums, they're amazing to visit, but they could reach more people, and they could reach a more diverse audience.

Museums are geographically clustered, especially in wealthier neighborhoods.

You know, if it's hard to get to a museum, then you might not go.

If it feels unwelcoming, then you might not go.

Maybe you don't know if you care about science or not, so you don't want to spend 20 bucks on a whole day.

There's a lot of reasons that people won't go to a museum.

At MICRO, the goal is really to reach people where they already are to integrate science, to integrate learning into people's day-to-day.

So we started with the Smallest Mollusk Museum.

The reason that we first thought up mollusks was actually because I misheard my partner, Charles, who said he was going to the Smallest Museum, and I heard 'the mollusk museum.'

[ Laughs ] Turns out that's where he was going, but the idea stuck.

There's all these great things that humans can learn about the world through mollusks.

We have a brains exhibit where we get to learn the different ways that mollusks think.

Octopus intelligence is a really interesting way to learn about potential forms of alien intelligence because it's so different than how we think.

We learn about clams who don't even have a brain at all and yet they're still able to function.

A big challenge of making these museums is just figuring out what to include.

We open up these amazing topics.

There are a million things we could have written about mollusks and put into this museum.

For every species of mollusks -- and there's hundreds of thousands of them -- there are infinite amazing stories.

We choose what to include in the museums based on our narrative.

We add a lot of way-finding so you have a discrete start and an end.

There's exhibits in the middle that show different levels of detail.

So there's the bigger-picture exhibits that kind of tell the whole story.

There's the more detailed exhibits that show you a little glimpse of how this works.

You know, mollusks are as different from us as we can possibly imagine an animal to be.

We want to get people to fall in love with them and to realize that, when you think about caring for the world, you should think about kind of the classically ugly animals, as well.

We learned the process of how to design a micro museum as we designed the Smallest Mollusk Museum, and now that's out in the world.

Soon, we'll be releasing our second museum, the Perpetual Motion Museum, which is about physics and engineering.

In terms of how that is then built, in the case of the micro museums, every topic ends up having its own distinct building that houses it.

And once it's designed, it's quite easy for us to replicate each one as demand requires.

I feel very lucky that I got to study science in school and that I got to work as a scientist, and I really wanted to share that with people -- how does life work, how do we think, how do we interact with the world.

At MICRO, the museum is really the place where you get to explore.

It shouldn't just be for scientists to get to look through that perspective.