“Bottled Up!”

by Terry Burton, Digital Media Coordinator, Fort Collins Museum & Discovery Science Center

We recently had an opportunity to participate in the Denver Community Museum‘s latest challenge, “Bottled Up!” Here’s the challenge:

“What are the experiences you would like to preserve? Fill a bottle with the memories of people and places from your life. Saved material can take any form – messages, objects, smells, sounds, photos – anything that shares your story.”

We were intrigued, both with the challenge itself and with the idea of being part of an exhibit process that not only involves the community, but is completely created by the community. We got the staff of Discovery Science Center and the Fort Collins Museum together to brainstorm what we could create, and came up with a series of twelve bottles, with magnets in the lids, which are attached to a sheet of corrugated metal:


Each bottle contains a different item. Some items seem to be history related, some seem to be science related. Or are they so easy to classify? For example, one bottle contains the shed skin of DSC’s ball python, Slinky. We talked about how that could represent science — an animal’s natural process of shedding its skin — but how it could also represent history — the past history of the snake. We hope that visitors to the exhibit will see the different possible relationships and overlaps between the objects in the bottles — between science and history — and come up with their own classification systems by rearranging the bottles on the metal sheet.

Here’s what we wrote to explain the exhibit:

“Making Sense of the World

As human beings, we seem to have a natural urge to classify things. From Aristotle to Linnaeus to you putting socks in one drawer and t-shirts in another, it’s one of the ways we use to make sense of our world.

Museums certainly do this – we are the quintessential classifiers. Besides classifying little things, like butterflies, we make big distinctions: this is art. This is history. This is science. And we organize our stuff accordingly.

At the Fort Collins Museum and Discovery Science Center, we’re a history museum and a hands-on science center merging into one institution. So we’re spending a lot of time thinking about the relationships between history and science and looking for new ways to look at what we do.

These bottles contain some science stuff and some history stuff. Or do they? Which is which, or does it matter? Do you see relationships among these bottles? Make your own classifications.”

Here’s a visitor at the Denver Community Museum leaving a comment about our exhibit (photo courtesy of Jaime Kopke, Curator):


“Bottled Up!” opened March 13 and runs through April 3rd at the Denver Community Museum. Hours are Thursdays, 2 – 7 pm and Fridays and Saturdays, 12 – 5 pm. Admission is free, and the museum is located at 1610 Little Raven St. Suite 120 in Denver.

March 2009

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