World of Molecular Biology

EMBL, Heidelberg

EMBL, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, is a renowned international institute boasting numerous huge scientific breakthroughs. And as such our contribution to this impressive exhibition is truly a milestone for us. Tucked into the German Heidelberg hills is the Imaging Centre, its new addition is the visitor’s centre named World of Molecular Biology.

Over two storeys, this light and airy space invites visitors to discover more about molecular biology, those who work in this specialised field, and technologies used at EMBL.

Curiosity and a deeper understanding of molecular biology

Curiosity towards the inner workings of life is the feeling a visit to this museum imbues as you learn about the relevance of fundamental research – both for individuals as society at large. The World of Molecular Biology demonstrates how human and planetary health are interlinked while pointing out global challenges. Climate change, loss of biodiversity, pollution, and the rise of pandemics…issues that interplay with big and small questions raised by humanity. The exhibition space forms a bridge between scientists and society, inviting us to take part in shared dialogue.

The exhibitions starts downstairs where the ‘Spirit of EMBL’ forms an introduction to EMBL, its researchers, and fields of expertise. The remaining floor is aptly named ‘Life is Amazing’, a combination of digital and hands-on exhibits concentrated around the ‘ribbon’ – a unique, site-specific piece.

A broad staircase leads visitors upstairs where they encounter ‘Seeing is believing’ a space dedicated to imaging technologies. Views from the mezzanine include a 40 m2 LED screen showing superb images of EMBL’s laboratories, and spaces in which EMBL scientists work with cryo-electron microscopes.

Stimulating the senses though complex matter

For most of us molecular biology is highly complex and difficult to grasp. The same goes for YIPP. We found ourselves spending hours with experts and stakeholders, discussing how to present complex matter in a way that is scientifically accurate while being visually stimulating. We called on VFX and animation agency Shosho, to help us realise this project in just nine months. A big challenge for such an endeavour – the project encompasses 33 different exhibits as well as a tour through the World of Molecular Biology.

User testing is an important part of our design process, so we performed multiple user tests allowing different target audiences to try our demos. We analysed their feedback and worked it into new iterations. Spending so much time in Heidelberg made us fall in love with the place.

A seamless blend of virtual and physical

Among the 33 exhibits are info stations, VR stations, audio pods, games, a curved LED column, and a body-controlled interactive. QR codes lead visitors to EMBL’s website, encouraging them to find more information and correlations between cancer research, big data, and evolutions. We also created content for the 40 m2 LED wall.

EMBL keeps all information up to date through the CMS we delivered. This allows (anonymous) tracking of exhibit use in the YIPP analytics system. In the future, we can analyse the results in order to improve exhibits.

For those not able to visit Heidelberg in person, there is a virtual tour. Walk through the visitor’s centre, watch interviews and videos, and get a sneak peak of the interactives.

Want to know more about ‘World of Molecular Biology’ or have a similar project in mind?Get in touch with Wouter Verbiest (wouter.verbiest@yipp.nl).