The city’s longstanding ties with historical scientific achievements have a new home in the Madison Science Museum, which opened Thursday.
The process of putting together the museum, the brainchild of Dave Nelson, emeritus professor of biochemistry at UW-Madison, began long before its recent grand opening.
“I started thinking about the museum 20 years ago,” Nelson said. “I’ve been saving old scientific instruments, metals and documents over that time not just to be preserved, but so they can be available for people to see them.”
The museum, located on the sixth floor of Madison Area Technical College’s downtown campus, features exhibits on different topics in science like imaging and robotics, as well as circuits and the bridge between the arts and science.
Nelson said he hopes to display the devices that produce these achievements in order to teach the value of the scientific method.
“It won’t be a new fancy device,” he said. “It’ll be an old one. It’ll help people show what the value is in doing these things in science.”
Long before the museum, Nelson and other retired professors taught a course on Wisconsin’s connections to scientific achievements, which he said helped him learn a lot.
“14 people in Madison have been related to the Nobel prize winners, and I’ll bet you there aren’t 10 people in Madison who can name those people and tell their stories,” Nelson said.
Nelson said he hopes the museum can teach science through storytelling.
“People like to hear things explained as stories,” he said. “So much of science is taught as a pile of facts with no flesh and blood in it at all. It’s really hard to learn stuff that way.”
Nelson said he also wants the museum to help tell the stories of women and minorities who played crucial roles in these discoveries but did not get any recognition.
Nelson said he hopes to collaborate with UW-Madison and Madison College.
“We really hope to get volunteers from both Madison College and UW-Madison who can help explain the exhibits,” Nelson said. “The museum is great for science students and non-science students.”