Massachusetts has been at the heart of some of the world’s biggest vaccine breakthroughs – coronavirus and beyond. But for the rollout of vaccines to be effective, communication, awareness, and accessibility are critical.
As one of the region’s most trusted science communicators for nearly 200 years, the Museum of Science is pleased to present its newest exhibition, Project Vaccine: Our Best Defense. Developed over the last year, the exhibit serves to educate and engage our community on the most pressing science issue of our time.
Throughout the pandemic, the Museum of Science has collaborated with industry, academia, government, and the public to serve the community as a platform for public science engagement.
Today, Project Vaccine is a suite of in-person and online resources for the public including educational videos, online activities, live presentations telling the story of the COVID-19 pandemic and the development of the vaccines, and the story of the miraculous innovation developed right here in Massachusetts.
Built by Museum staff, with support from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center and the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, the bilingual exhibition (English and Spanish) was developed to provide the tools and knowledge that can inform the public’s vaccination decisions. The exhibit brings together what we know about vaccines, their development, viral transmission, and the many steps and countless professionals involved in the creation—and rollout – of vaccines.
From learning about the herculean efforts involved in developing a COVID-19 vaccine to exploring the five different types of vaccines—RNA, viral vector, live attenuated, inactivated (killed), and recombinant—and their uses, from the scientists who worked on them. Visitors can also take a closer look at the complex effort it takes to get a vaccine from production into a person’s arm, from the people who manufacture, distribute, and administer vaccines.
One of the most important aspects of the exhibition is that it provides a space for people to explore their own thoughts and opinions. Questions that arise for visitors throughout the exhibit include:
- What are some of the takeaways from the pandemic?
- What could we do better?
- How did this pandemic shine a light on still-existing inequities, and how can we prepare for the next one?
In “Take a Stand,” a full-body activity, visitors position themselves along a continuum indicating how strongly they agree or disagree when asked a question about vaccines. Then they can hear how others have answered the question and see how their answer may compare. It’s an exhibit designed to present and explore the facts based on the visitor’s own lived experiences.
In a continued effort to bring this work to the public, the Museum is developing several ways to present the exhibit. The Museum is expanding its online resources with the development of a complete Project Vaccine website for more in-depth information. The Museum has also built replicas of the Project Vaccine exhibit that will travel throughout Massachusetts and the country. The first stops will be made in Worcester, Springfield, and Birmingham, Alabama.
It is the belief of the Museum that science should be public and participatory. Science is not just for a few people but should be something in which we all consider our part, whether it’s life sciences, climate science, or technological advancements, such as artificial intelligence. The Project Vaccine exhibit is just one example of how the Museum lives its mission to spark a love of science in everyone and serve our community.
To learn more about Project Vaccine, visit: https://www.mos.org/exhibits/project-vaccine-exhibit.
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