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The Hands-on Area in the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum


Children are discoverers. They conquer their world with all their senses, with their entire bodies, with logic and illogicality, and with feeling and imagination. Since December 2005 young visitors to the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum can benefit from this delight in discovery in the new children's museum with an interactive exhibition on the senses. With about 600 square yards of display space, this area offers 4- to 12-year olds and their parents, friends, teachers, and other care-givers a chance to learn and experiment. Hearing, seeing, touching, smelling, and tasting are not only the topics of the exhibition but also the ways to explore it. The children's museum follows an experience-based learning model. Touching, trying out, participating, and thinking along are expressly desired.


A large “Tunnel of the Senses” extends through all the sections of the exhibition. It represents the links between the inner and outer world that enable our senses to function. Inside the tunnel, the visitor's entire body becomes a perceptual organ responding to different materials while quite varied “outlooks” show how many different perspectives on the world can exist. The exterior wall of the tunnel has oversized models of the human sense organs, which lead the viewer into the various sections of the exhibition. Within the tunnel, the functions of these organs are demonstrated by mechanic models and other resources.


One side of the Tunnel of the Senses is the “archive.” Using niches, open and concealed spaces, and drawers to show images, objects, media stations, and texts, it presents a cosmos of biological knowledge about the senses in ways appropriate for children. The archive invites viewers to ask their own questions and seek answers to them. In short, it encourages all visitors to become researchers themselves. The other side of the tunnel has a number of interactive play and learning stations designed for different age groups. The middle of each section has a large installation for everyone.


In the area on seeing, for example, it is a room of mirrors in which visitors discover themselves from unusual or familiar perspectives, fancily or plainly dressed. In the hearing section, there is the maze of sound, in which visitors guess what different tones, sonorities, and sounds could be. The part on touch has the “darkrooms,” in which visitors get to feel their way through unknown worlds. The area on smell and taste presents visitors with a series of different scents.


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Photo: David Brandt