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On the Road with the Mobile Museum

Posted on July 10th, 2015
The 2015 UI Mobile Museum is ready to hit the road.

The 2015 UI Mobile Museum is ready to hit the road.

Water is one of the focal points of the newly redesigned University of Iowa Mobile Museum, which takes some the University of Iowa’s most exciting research, artifacts, and interactive media to Iowans across the state. Last year the 38-foot customized Winnebago RV visited 48 communities in 36 counties, welcoming more than 33,000 visitors.

IIHR’s new “Water Underground” exhibit aboard the mobile museum has three focal points:

  • The chemistry of water — Assistant Professor of Chemistry Tori Forbes, a member of IIHR—Hydroscience & Engineering’s Water Sustainability Initiative, helped craft this exhibit, which allows visitors to manipulate models of water molecules into different configurations.

    Visitors can build their own model of a water molecule.

    Visitors can build their own model of a water molecule.

  • Iowa’s bedrock aquifer systems — Rick Langel, Mike Gannon, and Jason Vogelgesang of the Iowa Geological Survey (also part of IIHR) conceived and helped design this exhibit, which features hands-on interactive displays.
  • Arsenic in drinking water — Pete Weyer of the Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination (CHEEC), and IIHR’s Michelle Scherer and Doug Schnoebelen are conducting research on naturally occurring arsenic in Iowa’s groundwater and its impact on those who drink water from private wells.

Iowans can also check out exhibits such as “Hawkeyes in Space: Space Exploration at the University of Iowa” and “Over Here from Over there: Iowans in World War II.” This year, students in the College of Education developed curricula that teachers can use before and after their students visit the mobile museum. The museum will travel to many community events and schools, and will also visit the Iowa State Fair and RAGBRAI.

Jason Vogelgesang (left) and Mike Gannon, both of the Iowa Geological Survey, show off the new hands-on aquifer exhibit.

Jason Vogelgesang (left) and Mike Gannon, both of the Iowa Geological Survey, show off the new hands-on aquifer exhibit.

IGS Research Specialist Rick Langel says that when the request for proposals for the mobile museum went out, he and colleagues Jason Vogelgesang and Mike Gannon knew immediately that they wanted to be a part of it. They started brainstorming and before long had developed a proposal focusing on Iowa’s groundwater. They knew they wanted the exhibit to be interactive, and they turned to IIHR Shop Supervisor Brandon Barquist for help. With the resources of the IIHR Mechanical Shop and its expert staff, they crafted the interactive exhibit that allows visitors to press a button to see how water moves through limestone vs. gravel.

Langel says the process of creating the exhibit was fun, and he’s excited about the final product and the opportunities for future outreach. “This is awesome,” he says, “Even better than I was hoping for.”

The traveling museum is the result of a partnership between the UI Office of the Vice President for Research and Economic Development and the Office of the State Archaeologist and the Pentacrest Museums. To learn more, visit discover.research.uiowa.edu.

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