Museum visits for twin city residents will now be as much of an auditory delight as a visual experience.
The Islamabad office of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), in conjunction with the Pakistan Science Foundation (PSF) gifted audio-visual equipment to the Pakistan Museum of Natural History (PMNH) on Wednesday.
The equipment, which consists of one walkie-talkie-like transmitter and eight headsets that will serve as an audio tour guide for the museum’s visitors, was handed over to the PMNH at a special ceremony at the museum.
The transmitter will communicate remotely with the headsets to transmit pre-programmed audio commentary tracks in both English and Urdu, providing visitors with enhanced factual knowledge about the exhibits they are viewing.
The audio commentary is expected to enhance the accessibility of scientific information and knowledge for the museum’s visitors, young boys and girls in particular.
While audio tour facilities are commonly seen at museums in developed countries the world over, this is the first time such equipment has been installed in Pakistan.
Speaking at the occasion, Kozue Kay Nagata, Director of UNESCO Islamabad, said scientific inquiry sets humans apart from other animals.
“What makes us different is our curiosity, our ability to inquire, our ability to look for answers and our ability to persist with scientific inquiry,” Nagata said.
She said scientific inquiry was also linked with economic success and claimed that any nation would struggle to promote progressive, appropriate and positive social transformations without it.
“If you look at all the countries that are successful in terms of development, you will see their education systems are devised from an early stage to focus on scientific inquiry,” Nagata said. “The idea of (asking) why? is fundamental to economic growth and development, in my opinion.”
Nagata confirmed that that the audio equipment had been provided to the PMNH as a pilot project and, if successful, the initiative could not be extended to other museums in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, chairman of the PSF Dr Manzoor Hussain Soomro expressed his gratitude to UNESCO for its technological assistance.
“We have one of the most significant natural science specimens in the museum,” Soomro said. “We find it most appropriate now to upgrade our resources technologically to meet the demand, and we are thankful to UNESCO for supporting us.”
UNESCO is working closely with the PSF on several initiatives including the “Man and the Biosphere” programme – an intergovernmental initiative to improve people’s relationship with the environment – and mobile science exhibitions in conflict-ridden areas of Fata.
The UN agency is also supporting the PSF in developing an online “Virtual Tour” of the museum, enabling citizens from other regions of Pakistan to view the museum’s exhibits.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2013.