Monday, June 9, 2014

pneu and old exhibitions

We can learn a lot about pneumatic tube systems from the material exhibited, and in the archives, of museums. Through such artifacts we learn about the materials used in these systems over time, about the ways in which they were mapped, drawn, and adapted by users. These materials also make great objects for display, offering lots of fun potential for inter-museum romances by post, and other correspondences.
Fantastic pneumatic tube content can be found in permanent installations in museums such as the Post and Tele Museum in Copenhagen, La Musee de La Poste in Paris, the Museum fur Kommunikation in Berlin, the Technisches Museum in Vienna and the Luftmuseum in Amberg. And in the Museum of London and York's National Railway Museum you can visit two original capsules from the London Pneumatic Dispatch Company.

There are many other science museums which also have small installations, some interactive, such as at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, where visitors can feed tennis balls into tubes and at the Museum of Science in Boston, where visitors can send magnetic "letters" by pneumatics. You can watch videos of visitors interacting with the system in Berlin here (including tube cam!) and another terrific one here.

Some museum workshops and exhibitions are more temporary. Several years ago I wrote about the Fast Trash exhibition in New York, which explored the fascinating story of Roosevelt Island's pneumatic garbage system.

A little further back, in 2006 the Smithsonian Museum had a Marvelous Ways to Move Mail exhibition, with the Missile Mail and Pneumatic Tubes activity, involving visitors building cardboard missiles (read more from the museum about pneumatic tubes here).

At the Australian Museum of Democracy, students learn about the Franklin River debate in Tasmania, through an interactive workshop which involves them sending a copy of a conservation act to the House of Representatives chamber through the museums' pneumatic tube system. The students love it!

For those interested in these kind of events, this summer in New Mexico, US, The Parachute Company will host hands-on workshops in libraries specifically about pneumatic tubes. Visitors will find a system of tubes, through which they can send their own messages in canisters. They will be encouraged to use a range of printing techniques to craft their messages, including cryptography. The workshop is designed to explore how networks work, through creative engagements with pneumatic technology. The Parachute Company organises these kinds of events for the public to explore and have fun with technology, art and culture. For more details of this and other workshops this summer, see the Hitchhiker website for New Mexico librarians.

Coming up soon: pneumatic tubes in art galleries
Images from Phanomenta Das Science-Centre, from Wikimedia and from pilot_micha's Flikr page.

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