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Sustainable solutions for everyday life with MOTAT

With a mission to engage young audiences on sustainable solutions for everyday life, the Museum of Transport and Technology in Auckland (MOTAT) have designed an immersive exhibit showcasing a selection of businesses and community leaders taking tech and science smarts to the next level, and generation.

“Sustainability isn’t a ‘nice to have’, it’s something that impacts all aspects of life,” says MOTAT Exhibition Curator Karla Bo Johnson.

“From deciding to cook up the veggies in the bottom of the fridge before they go to waste, to buying food and other items with less packaging. It’s an important mindset to have, to do what you can each day to reduce waste and have as little impact on the environment as possible.”

Johnson is Lead Curator on MOTAT’s Switch Up: Sustainable Solutions that focuses on providing an immersive and future-focused experience designed to educate and inspire the entire family.

The exhibition features 15 innovative companies from across Aotearoa doing great things for the environment, with interactive displays and quick facts to get young visitors thinking about their sustainability choices. “The stories are conveyed through interactive graphic dials, fun facts that are relatable and accessible to younger visitors. The whole gallery space is playful, inviting and intended to offer a positive look to a sustainable future.”

Positioning itself as the science and technology playground of Aotearoa, MOTAT is becoming known for interactive exhibits like Switch Up. This goes hand-in-hand with its mission to use past, present and future technology and ingenuity of Aotearoa to educate and inspire the innovators of tomorrow.

“We recognise that tamariki are already well-versed in this kaupapa, and they’ll be the ones taking the lead around living sustainably into the future. Switch Up aims to inspire the next generation to consider how to live more sustainably now,” says Johnson.

Karla Bo.

“We’ve worked closely with a cohort of New Zealand’s brightest sustainable thinkers and some phenomenal community leaders to help make Switch Up happen.” An independent evaluation of the exhibition confirmed that it has stimulated conversations and got ideas flowing amongst MOTAT visitors.

Read more: Breaking female stereotypes with new MOTAT experience

Some of the businesses featured include popular fashion brand RUBY and its clothing pattern extension, Liam Patterns, e-waste recycling company Mint, the Kai Ika project and more. Johnson says that when choosing those to be featured in the exhibit, they had to be relatable and inspirational in their approaches to the challenges facing us in  Aotearoa right now.

“As a science and technology museum, it’s important we respond to that need and what better way to do this than by surrounding ourselves with brilliant people who are out there leading the way with viable, sustainable solutions,” says MOTAT’s Museum Experience Manager, Sally Manuireva.

Taking around six months to curate, Johnson says that the creation of the exhibition started with a discussion around “finding a manageable focus” for what can sometimes be an overwhelming subject. They then reached out to those who best aligned with this vision.

Johnson worked alongside co-curator Todd Dixon to research companies in New Zealand that were making their mark towards the cause. “What was great was that everyone seemed to really value MOTAT and a lot of them had kids and really liked coming here,” she says. “So, we only had positive responses from people once we contacted them who were excited about the purpose of the exhibition and getting involved.”

“The design process was led by Jess Gommers, who brings a wealth of talent and expertise. Jess, Todd and I focused on creating a fun and lively exhibition environment, based on the concept of a local Auckland market, such as Avondale or Otara. Rather than displaying objects in showcases, or out of reach, we included lots of touchable materials, up-beat text, bright and bold graphics and digital experiences.”

MOTAT’s younger visitors, particularly the nine- to13-year-old age group and under-fives, were a top priority throughout the exhibition development process. “We considered this exhibition to be an important education offering with an aim to ‘educate and inspire’ and to give hope for the future rather than a picture of gloom and doom.”

The centre of the exhibition features documentary footage and large-scale projections of the local Waitītiko Meola Creek. This part of Switch Up shows the importance and contribution of community-led restoration projects by organisations such as STEPS (St Lukes Environmental Protection Society).

In a digital experience kids grab an NFC tag and take on the Switch Up challenge: helping illustrated characters make use of the sustainable solutions shown in the exhibit. The challenge ends in ‘The Hub’, turning the spotlight on the visitor and letting them personalise their sustainable aspirations and actions.  

Johnson says that apart from learning about these solutions through curriculums, this exhibit allows the momentum to keep moving forward. “It’s all about educating in an inspiring way. I think that was a big thing, not telling people this and that. It’s about experiencing, touching, feeling, interacting and just trying to make it a bit more up-beat,” she says.

“I’m personally inspired by all the sustainable projects and innovation featured within the exhibition and how they offer active, achievable ideas for the future,” she adds.

The Switch Up: Sustainable Solutions exhibit is currently running at MOTAT until April 2, 2023. For more information on how to get involved, click here.

Bernadette is a content writer across SCG Business titles. To get in touch with her, email [email protected]

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