As senior Hannah Weinberg-Wolf was enjoying an exhibition at the nearby Walters Art Museum last year about how touch and Renaissance sculpture are interlinked, she realized it would be more interesting to add another element: publishable scientific data.
The Walters exhibition, which included a variety of small bronze sculptures, focused on the way touch and visual perception related to sculpture, something that interested Weinberg-Wolf, who will graduate in May with a major in Behavioral Biology and a minor in Museums and Society.
“There was no way to track the data, and it was not scientifically significant because it was not publishable with no control,” Weinberg-Wolf said, remembering her reaction and ideas for a follow-up exhibit.
Proceeding with her newfound inspiration, Weinberg-Wolf spoke with Elizabeth Rodini, director of the program of Museums and Society, who knew that Steven Hsaio, scientific director of the Zanvyl Krieger Mind/Brain Institute and professor of neuroscience at Hopkins, was interested in doing a project as well. Weinberg-Wolf received funding from the Dean’s Undergraduate Research Award, and began working with Rodini and Hsaio as well as Juan Huang, a post-doctoral fellow, who was also interested in a spin-off exhibit.
The resulting project, called “Please Touch,” will be showcased in the area of the library previously occupied by Café Q through graduation this May. The exhibit focuses on the relationship between what we find to be visually and tactilely pleasing. Since the end goal is to get data that can be published in a paper, it is important for visitors to actively participate more than once.
There will be four rotating sets of objects that answer different scientific questions. The objects currently on display are meant to find results about what it is in perception that makes us prefer certain textures.
After this month, Weinberg-Wolf is excited to use the exhibit to pursue topics that haven’t been studied as much, such as reasons for our preferences of certain types of curvature and symmetry in objects.
Along with learning about the science of the exhibit, Rodini thinks it is important for students at Hopkins to search out opportunities that pique their curiosity in general.
“There are lots of different ways to explore what they’re interested in and communicate it within and beyond the campus,” Rodini said.
Rodini thinks this show is unique because while typical exhibits are about getting people to understand the curator’s knowledge or thoughts, this project gets people actively involved and allows them to contribute to scientific research while learning something themselves.
“I had the goal of... transforming Café Q into a gallery that would be an experimental space to explore projects being done at Hopkins,” Rodini said.
Weinberg-Wolf specifically hopes the exhibit will showcase the interdisciplinary nature of scientific research that can be done at Hopkins.
“So much amazing research goes on at Hopkins and so few students know about it,” Weinberg-Wolf said. “[I love] being able to curate an exhibition and using everything I’ve learned about Museums and Society, and at the same time be focusing on science and making it relevant to both.”
So, if on your way to the library this semester you choose to stop by the old Café Q area for a few minutes, you can be part of this interactive, interdisciplinary project. Look, observe and “please touch.”