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Questacon – still great but a little tired

By astraguy 9 June 2008 20

I have long been a big fan of Questacon (I can certainly celebrate my inner geek) and taking my son there for the past two years has given me a new perspective on how exciting it still is. We are members and frequenters of MiniQ; the section for the littlies.

However, over the past 12 months I feel that there has been a noticable decline in the quality of the experience. It’s not that the exhibitions weren’t put together well (although I wasn’t a huge fan of Imagination Factory), or that stuff is broken more. And it certainly isn’t the staff who are as happy and helpful as ever.

I have been pondering this over our last few visits and I think that on our last visit I finally put my finger on it.

What’s Your opinion?


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Questacon – still great but a little tired
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undercover 9:47 am 23 Sep 08

I understand from a friend – who works at Questacon – that one of the never ending discussions/points of disagreement within Questacon is about the exhibitions. Some think that you need all the colour and fanfare and ‘hero’ exhibits where visitors merely push a button or turn a handle – there are others that believe Q should get back to basics, such as the mathamazing exhibtion, where visitors are engaged for longer peiods of time and have to work a problem out for themselves. In other words the second group believe that recent exhibitions are OVER designed and UNDER content. Eaten Alive is a prime example – big and beautiful but doesnt do much.

Thumper 8:57 am 18 Aug 08

Remember folks, they have had their funding cut to the bone like most cultural institutions.

Thus, the place does look tired.

Davo111 5:44 am 18 Aug 08

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy said :

The biggest problem Questacon has is that they have changed the aim of many of the exhibits from being ‘isn’t this cool and interesting’ to ‘look how pretty the colours are and how we can pander to popular culture’. Take the gallery that has the caged lightning for instance – it used to have a huge Jacobs Ladder, and the earthquake machine was a simple platform without all the fake house crapola. It also had the spinning platforms, and some of the more original exhibits, such as the vacuum pump. Now it’s all colourful crap that doesn’t actually do anything.

Personally, I think they need to get back to the interesting science stuff, and ditch all the pretty colours and backgrounds.

I went this weekend and I agree. The place seems to be very… press a button and watch the lights/colours. Watching the kids the process was ‘smash the button as many times as possible’ – see if anything moved – then run to the next display. ‘Slideshow’ seemed to be a cheap version of Timezone. The ‘throw a ball speed test’ was seen 3 seperate times in the museum, and seemed to be the main source for ego boosting. I did enjoy my visit.

I also enjoyed the ’10 rockets in 30 minutes’ lecture that was on at 11am. (the 2nd time I’ve seen it too)

jakez 12:29 pm 08 Aug 08

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy said :

The biggest problem Questacon has is that they have changed the aim of many of the exhibits from being ‘isn’t this cool and interesting’ to ‘look how pretty the colours are and how we can pander to popular culture’. Take the gallery that has the caged lightning for instance – it used to have a huge Jacobs Ladder, and the earthquake machine was a simple platform without all the fake house crapola. It also had the spinning platforms, and some of the more original exhibits, such as the vacuum pump. Now it’s all colourful crap that doesn’t actually do anything.

Personally, I think they need to get back to the interesting science stuff, and ditch all the pretty colours and backgrounds.

I absolutely agree VY.

The Australian Liberal Students’ Federation Federal Council was in Canberra this year in July and a whole bunch of us went to Questacon (it’s loved across the nation). The last time I had been was a few years ago with my fiancee and it has changed quite a bit. We still all had a great time and I don’t think the price was too high at all. I do miss the old emphasis however and would like to see a return of earthquake machine, science shows (might have just missed them, it was a packed day due to school holidays), etc.

I think going once a month would make it feel a bit tired.

Geeko 11:40 am 08 Aug 08

AstraGuy,
what you say is very true (my perspective). The condition of the building and some of the exhibits have been running down. But from the scaffolding and actvity around there at the moment I;d say some of this is being tackled.
The budget windbacks have also added to the challange of pitching the type of exhibits. To keep the $$$ coming in, the place needs to appeal to the quick canberra visitors ( schools doing civics exccursions), more than it did in the past when the place was more of the great community science centre it started out as, over in the Ainslie Infants school buildings in 1980.

I know they have hopes to turn more office space over to gallery space, and a Midi-Q is on the cards to provide a suitable space for those kids that have outgrown the mini-Q area.

some thoughts.

Thumper 11:03 pm 02 Aug 08

And their funding has been severely cut…

Enough said…

cranky 10:45 pm 02 Aug 08

An (ex) insider has described the current management of Questacon as being ‘a bunch of fat, incompetent women’.

I suspect there is an element of truth involved.

astraguy 10:18 pm 02 Aug 08

Hey Geeko…..tis a good question and has made me ponder.

There certainly doesn’t seem to be any lack of enthusiasm from my son. He gets very excited just mentioning Questacon. There is certainly less in it for me (its hard to value add to the 50th time he has used an exhibit…consecutively) but as his favourites change it gives me new things to interact with him.

New things coming are all pitched too high for him so he will run around in a new exhibition but nothing really holds him. So turnover, whilst better for me, doesn’t bring him much.

What more troubles me is the chipping paint and broken equipment. In the kiddies area half of the play stuff is missing or skanky. Just not what I am used to seeing at Questacon. And it is a real shame. Whilst it is unlikely to deter us in the short term, if the quality of the experience keeps going down and the price keeps going up……

I think that VYBerlina has a point…..there is a lot of emphasis (and I suppose money) put on making it all themed when its not really the reason why we go there. I do miss the Jacob’s Ladder! Maybe the trick to betting the “efficiency cut” is back to basics.

The biggest problem Questacon has is that they have changed the aim of many of the exhibits from being ‘isn’t this cool and interesting’ to ‘look how pretty the colours are and how we can pander to popular culture’. Take the gallery that has the caged lightning for instance – it used to have a huge Jacobs Ladder, and the earthquake machine was a simple platform without all the fake house crapola. It also had the spinning platforms, and some of the more original exhibits, such as the vacuum pump. Now it’s all colourful crap that doesn’t actually do anything.

Personally, I think they need to get back to the interesting science stuff, and ditch all the pretty colours and backgrounds.

sepi 10:07 pm 31 Jul 08

Questacon is suffering badly from having to make Kevin Rudd’s 3.5% ‘efficiency savings’.

They are expected to make 50% of their own money – hence the door price keeps going up.

Geeko 8:53 pm 31 Jul 08

Questacon is now part of Dep of innovation, they moved post the election from Dest.

Astraguy, as a member you go a lot, is the place getting tired, or are you getting tired of the place… it does change exhibitions more often than most cultural palaces in Canberra. Is it not changing them enough for members or is it something else?

peterh 4:33 pm 17 Jul 08

I hated the change to government, it meant that they were accountable for all expenditure, and the best price usually won. Dell was the incumbent, but I sold a lot of peripherals, and probably made more money than dell, anyway.

Davo111 4:25 pm 17 Jul 08

i stand corrected 😉

peterh 4:21 pm 17 Jul 08

Davo111 said :

tickboom – I thought questacon was privately owned (and recieved funding from the government to keep it running). Please correct me if i’m wrong but thats what i remember when i spoke to a mate who worked there (a few months back)

no,

they fall under dest (deewr now)

and are titled the national science & technology center
they have both .gov.au & .edu.au recognition.

Davo111 3:44 pm 17 Jul 08

tickboom – I thought questacon was privately owned (and recieved funding from the government to keep it running). Please correct me if i’m wrong but thats what i remember when i spoke to a mate who worked there (a few months back)

peterh 10:33 am 17 Jul 08

Ari said :

I think that on our last visit I finally put my finger on it…..

Are we supposed to guess the rest of your opinion?

Perhaps it is the title?

look, mini-Q is great for the littlies, but the sideshow section is getting a bit old, where are the new science / technology offerings? surely there are new offerings to get kids excited in science?

Questacon needs to look closely at who comes to visit them. I take my 3 under 4 kids there once a month. the boys are more interested, but they are now 1 year old, mobile (dear god) and can actually interact with the exhibits.

soon they will be into dinosaurs. Questacon will lose out, they will go to the dinosaur museum instead.

perhaps questacon should become part of the NMA, allows the funding to be spread across the 2 sites, and can increase the focus towards science again.

Ari 9:43 am 17 Jul 08

I think that on our last visit I finally put my finger on it…..

Are we supposed to guess the rest of your opinion?

tickboom 9:23 am 17 Jul 08

Davo111 – given that it is not intended to be a money-making venture, I don’t think it should come as any surprise that it is ‘losing lots of money’. That’s like saying the National Gallery failed to turn a profit last year: true, but nonsensical.

Thumper 8:19 am 17 Jul 08

Questacon has been looking a bit tired for at least five, maybe more years now.

And given the cuts to cultural institutions by the current federal government, it’s not going to get any remedial work in the near future.

Davo111 3:56 am 17 Jul 08

From what i understand Questacon is losing lots of money and they’re not spending much on development.

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