By MICHAEL BERMAN
As you climb through the pathways of the new 18-foot tall neural structure of the brain housed in the Franklin Institute’s new “Your Brain” exhibit, you come to realize the complexities of the body’s most vital organ. Lights go on and off, along with sound effects throughout. It’s just like a live brain itself — it never stops operating.
“Your Brain” is the Franklin’s newest permanent exhibit and the main attraction to the The Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion, the largest expansion in the Franklin Institute’s history. It’s named in honor of its lead donors, who donated $10 million to the Franklin Institute in October 2011, the largest private donation in its history. The new additions total 53,000 square feet and cost $41 million.
“This is one of the largest and most significant expansions in 190 years,” said Dennis Wint, president and CEO of the Franklin Institute.
A conference center was added, along with an education center which includes two classrooms.
“The pavilion will be a huge asset to the city of Philadelphia and the region,” said Marsha Perelman, chair emerita of the Franklin Institute’s Board of Trustees.
The pavilion is expected to bring out visitors of past and present, and for generations to come. A video was shown at the media preview of a young boy attending the Franklin Institute in 1964, and then every 10 years thereafter, into 2014 as an older, gray-haired man, with a young boy presumed to be his grandson.
Nicholas Karabots said he hopes “underprivileged (children) in cities around the country” can visit the Franklin Institute.
The lead exhibit is the 8,500-foot “Your Brain” exhibit, sponsored by Teva Pharmaceutical. “Your Brain,” which will be a permanent fixture at the museum, is not only informative, but explorative and interactive.
As the exhibit explains, “Your brain is what makes you an individual. The brain is responsible for all our thoughts, feelings and memories.” It then asks, “How can one organ accomplish so many complex tasks?”
There are MRIs on display showing differences in the brain, along with how the brain would work if one aspect of it wasn’t working.
The neural structure will likely serve as a fun activity for kids, and remind older visitors of exploring the Franklin Institute’s well-known giant heart structure.
“Your Brain” has more than 70 interactive experiences. These displays include feeling the inside of a real plastinated human brain, identifying and reading facial reactions, recognizing familiar faces (known as the Fusiform Face Area), testing neural speed, a distracted driving course, optical illusions, how the brain affects your five senses and many more.
Have you ever tried reading a list of colors out loud that are printed in different colors? It’s not as easy as it sounds.
Visitors can sit down in a chair and place a finger on a heart monitor, as a voice explains that “Something is going to happen.” It starts off calmly, but then noises begin and the voice gets louder. A monitor displays the heart rate, which is supposed to go increase as the visitor becomes more anxious.
As you travel through the exhibit, you will come to a street scene filtered with optical illusions, such as the famous illusion that shows Albert Einstein or Marilyn Monroe, depending on how you view it.
The third floor of the Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion will offer a climate-controlled space. Two traveling exhibits were added to go along with the opening of the pavilion, “Circus! Science under the Big Top” and “101 Inventions that Changed the World.”
“Circus!” includes history of the circus, along with a chance to explore the scientific aspects of the circus. Visitors will have a chance to walk a tightrope high in the air (with much assistance, of course), launch a cannonball and flip like a trapeze artist. There’s also a photo opportunity to dress up like a circus member. One fun section has a model of different feces from circus animals, and was cleverly titled “Deduce Species from Feces.”
“101 Inventions That Changed the World,” highlights inventions of different time periods and fields, but with one thing in common — they changed the world or some aspect of it. Visitors will find information on controlled fire, penicillin, the polio vaccine, LEGOs, the electric guitar, the Internet and the cellphone.
Both traveling exhibits are available through Sept. 1.
Along with a new permanent exhibit, plenty of space for traveling exhibits, conference centers and classrooms, the Franklin Institute will continue to be one of the most popular museums in the Philadelphia region.
All of the new additions are a part of a “new chapter in the history of the Franklin Institute,” said Larry Dubinski, incoming president and CEO.
For hours and admission prices go to www.fi.edu or call (215) 448-1200.