1st Edition

Controversy in Science Museums
Re-imagining Exhibition Spaces and Practice

ISBN 9781138579989
Published May 18, 2020 by Routledge
276 Pages 13 Color & 40 B/W Illustrations

USD $44.95

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Book Description

Controversy in Science Museums focuses on exhibitions that approach sensitive or controversial topics. With a keen sense of past and current practices, Pedretti and Navas Iannini examine and re-imagine how museums and science centres can create exhibitions that embrace criticality and visitor agency.

Drawing on international case studies and voices from visitors and museum professionals, as well as theoretical insights about scientific literacy and science communication, the authors explore the textured notion of controversy and the challenges and opportunities practitioners may encounter as they plan for and develop controversial science exhibitions. They assert that science museums can no longer serve as mere repositories for objects or sites for transmitting facts, but that they should also become spaces for conversations that are inclusive, critical, and socially responsible.

Controversy in Science Museums provides an invaluable resource for museum professionals who are interested in creating and hosting controversial exhibitions, and for scholars and students working in the fields of museum studies, science communication, and social studies of science. Anyone wishing to engage in an examination and critique of the changing roles of science museums will find this book relevant, timely, and thought provoking.

Table of Contents


List of figures and tables



Part 1: Articulating Theoretical Landscapes

Chapter 1: Towards more progressive views of scientific literacy in science museums

Chapter 2: Science communication, public engagement and science museums

Chapter 3: Generations of science museums: Changing roles, changing goals

Chapter 4: Engaging controversy

Reflective Questions and Activities

Part 2: Tales From The Field

Chapter 5: Deconstructing science: A Question of Truth

Chapter 6: Growing concerns: Preventing Youth Pregnancy

Chapter 7: Under the skin: Body Worlds

Chapter 8: Breaking taboos: Mental Health: Mind Matters

Reflective Questions and Activities

Part 3: Revisiting Science Museums: Embracing Controversial Terrains

Chapter 9: Visitor voices

Chapter 10: Institutional inspirations and inclinations

Chapter 11: Navigating controversy in science museums

Chapter 12: Science museums re-imagined

Reflective Questions and Activities


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Erminia Pedretti (PhD, MEd, BEd, BSc) is Professor of Science Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto (Canada) in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning. Her research interests include science education, STSE, science museum studies, and teacher education. She has published 52 articles, five books, and two teacher education textbooks. She has received numerous nationally competitive grants (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) to support her research program and graduate students, including her most recent grant Engaging the Public with Controversial Issues through Science Centres and Museums.

Ana Maria Navas Iannini (PhD, MA, BSc) is Assistant Professor at the University of Los Andes (Colombia), in the Faculty of Education. She is a researcher in the fields of science education, science communication, and science museums. She has published one book, four book chapters, six articles, and two professional books. While conducting her PhD and postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto, she participated in several funded research projects involving museums, science centres, and science clubs. Her current grant, received from the University of Los Andes, focuses on public engagement, socio-scientific issues and the informal science education sector.


 “Controversy in Science Museums is a superb and unmissable book [...] Grounded in solid research and evidence, this book is a magnificent resource to understand the role of science centres and museums today and their potential in the future. The vast number of examples and case studies cited and the rigorous academic frameworks on which it is based make this book universally relatable. My advice: if you have time to read just one professional development book, make sure it’s this one." --Andrea Bandelli, Executive Director, Science Gallery International, Dublin, Ireland.