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Embarking on an interdisciplinary activity or exhibition in a museum creates something new by crossing boundaries. Combining science and history not only allows each discipline to complement the other, it also encourages multiple modes of learning. While interdisciplinarity can present challenges—like finding the right balance of science and history—this approach enhances visitor experience in fresh and exciting ways. This technical leaflet charts the development of an exhibition that combines science museum activities with historical stories, objects, and settings, offering history museums a possible road map to effectively introduce science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) into their institutions.
For the past decade, Conner Prairie, in Fishers, Indiana, has created experiences that help visitors learn about science in historic environments. Across our grounds, visitors can experience historical activities that demonstrate science concepts, like churning butter or shaping iron in a forge. Expanding this idea beyond our historic areas, Conner Prairie staff sought to create an exhibition that featured not just the history of science, but the active processes of the scientific method embedded in historic stories. We partnered with the Science Museum of Minnesota and received funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the National Science Foundation to create a new kind of exhibition built on best practices from history and science museums.