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Tuesday, 27 June, 2000, 17:01 GMT 18:01 UK
Royal Wellcome for new approach
Decks BBC
Exhibition decks are hung from the ceiling
The Queen has opened a 50m extension to the Science Museum in London, UK, that promises to revolutionise the relationship the institution has with its visitors.

The Wellcome Wing, the museum's single biggest project in its 140-year history, intends to keep pace with the fast changing world of science and technology by mounting exhibitions that are based on developments which may, at times, only be a few hours old.

From "hot issues" such as drugs in sport to the next big space mission, the wing intends to display information and materials that will put the latest developments in context - and allow visitors to feedback their views through interactive games and displays.

There are even "video benches" taking a live feed of headlines and stories from BBC News Online's science and technology pages.

Exhibition decks

"Most museums have a 'build and walk away' philosophy, where they put up an exhibition and then go off to do something else for 10 years," said Professor John Durrant, head of the Wellcome Wing project. "If that's what you do, you can't possibly cover the world of contemporary science."

From the inside, the wing has the appearance of a giant blue and grey box. Three different exhibition platforms, or "decks", are suspended from a ceiling, part of which forms the floor of a 450-seat Imax cinema.

Each deck has its own theme. The first floor is dedicated to biomedical science. Visitors can see what a pig heart modified for human transplantation looks like, and take part in a DNA experiment that aims to establish which genes are involved in facial expression.

Wing BBC
Antenna will change "fantastically fast"
The second floor, Digitopolis, which has been prepared with the wing's biggest commercial sponsor, Intel, focuses on the new digital technologies that are transforming our lives.

The third floor, In Future, presents visitors with giant interactive games tables on which they can investigate controversial issues such as fathers giving birth and parents choosing the sex of their children.

Exhibits will change "either fast, very fast or fantastically fast," said Professor Durrant, highlighting one ground floor area called Antenna where equipment used to sequence the human genome was on display.

Stephenson's Rocket

The wing, which has been built with money mainly from the Wellcome Trust charity and the Heritage Lottery Fund, will open to the public on Monday, 3 July.

The Science Museum hopes it will bring in an additional 300,000 visitors each year.

They will be brought into the new space through a revamped hall now called the Making of The Modern World. It features many objects from the museum's collections previously not on display to the public.

Using icons such as Stephenson's Rocket and the Apollo 10 Command Module, it charts the development of technology from 1750 onwards.

Sir Neil Cossons, director of the Science Museum, said: "The Wellcome Wing is really the culmination of plans that were laid as long ago as 1912, when the original format for the Science Museum, to be built in three great blocks, was approved by the government and led to the opening of the building that we all know and love in 1928."

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