When someone is asked what Toruń is known for, everyone, especially children, replies „gingerbread.” Adults might also add the name of Mikołaj Kopernik (known in English as Nicolaus Copernicus), who stated that the Sun is in the center of the Solar System. However, we have been exploring that beautiful city in northern Poland and found a very interesting place, especially for science enthusiasts. Today, we will introduce you to Center of Modernity, also known as Windmill of Knowledge, which opened in 2013. We were lucky enough to speak with the principal of the Center, Monika Wisniewska, and asked her a few questions about its history and activities.
What was the beginning of the Center and who came up with the idea?
The actual idea to create such a Center came from many people and organizations. There is no way you could mention everyone. I think that the power of Center was, from the very beginning, a huge support not only from the Toruń City Council, but also from the academic circle of Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń as well as from people operating on the border of the science and education. In such a city as Toruń, a city of great academic tradition and strongly connected to the great Nicolaus Copernicus, such a place as Center of Modernity had to be funded.
What sort of difficulties did the Center of Modernity come across in the beginning and what sort of problems is it coping with currently?
Working in the Center of Modernity: Windmill of Knowledge, we use the word „challenge” a lot. Thanks to all sorts of challenges, we are learning and developing all the time. The challenges always motivate the team to work harder and to be more creative so our visitors can always experience our displays at their best. At the beginning, the biggest challenge was the construction and the conceptual creation of the exhibitions. Thankfully, with years, we got enough experience to handle it faster, in the more efficient and effective way, as many of our guests said after visiting the Center.
Is there anyone who could be called „a hero” of the Center of Modernity?
I am not sure if we can talk about „hero” or „heroes” here. For people who are running the Center, the most important person is the receiver, so our visitor. Without them our space would be perfectly designed and beautiful, but lifeless, empty. We are trying to meet expectations of our guests; we also would like to inspire them to keep looking for the answers later on. There is nothing better for self-development than curiosity and the will for looking for them. I think that Center of Modernity is the place that connects science, education and culture. It’s a place that presents the visitors all the new trends and hopefully helps them understand the world around better.
Could you say a few words about the attractions waiting for the visitors in the Center?
The offer of Center of Modernity: Windmill of Knowledge is quite diverse. We have the interactive exhibitions that focus on the issues from astronomy, biology, ecology, physics, optics, medicine and art. One of our greatest attraction is the longest in Poland, constantly working, Foucault’s pendulum thank to which the visitors can „see” the phenomenon of Earth spinning around its own axis. Throughout the year in the Center, we also have some temporary exhibitions. Some of them regularly appear at the Center as they are very popular among our guests. An example of such is the photograph display from the oldest photography competition in the world: „Wildlife Photographer of The Year.” On the third floor, we created a special space for the youngest: there is a creative workshop space as well as the exhibition called „Experience Life.” We would like to interest kids with nature, but most of all try to teach them a little bit of independent constructing and creative thinking. Children have a great time learning science at the display „The River” where we share with them the longest model of the riverbed.
We also have a wide range of workshops dedicated to various groups of visitors. On Saturdays, we always invite families for some special events so parents can spend some nice time with their kids in a more ”scientific” way. There are also some specialist workshops for organized groups in the biology lab, physical lab and multimedia workshop space. We organize plenty of the events popularizing science, often cooperating with several institutions outside Center. Among them are: Scientific Halloween, Picnic for Children’s Day or Toruń Scientists’ Night.
What can youngsters find in the Windmill of Knowledge?
There is a real „scientific paradise” that is located on the aforementioned third floor. There, they can find a workshop space all about construction, an exhibition about life and the famous riverbed display. However, kids will find something interesting in all the exhibitions and classes.
What are the future plans for the Center of Modernity?
Center of Modernity has been constantly developing its educational offer. Since September, there will be new rage of workshops in the labs specially prepared for the school groups. On July 5, we opened a display called „Beyond The Lab” just outside the building of the Center. The exhibition is prepared by the Science Museum in London and presents the story of the seven scientists who work with DIY methods and support medicine within the area of healthcare. The display shows that, thanks to new technologies as well as the involvement of the ordinary people, science can even develop at one’s home and still lead to some revolutionary discoveries. The exhibition consists of some photographs, films, examples of art and interactive elements. The display is divided into three parts: Homegrown Biologists, Health Hackers and Civic Education. The fourth section is focused on art and gathers various projects representing the imaginations of how future medicine and social science will be closely connected. The exhibition was created thank to the European program Sparks, whose goal is to popularize social involvement in scientific innovations and research. It was funded by the UE Horizon Program 2020, thanks to which the display was able to be presented in 30 countries within 2 years.
Currently we are also adapting the old building of Toruń windmills. In the second half of 2019, we are going to run the exhibition in the modernized spaces, which is going to be focused on maturation and the process of enculturation. The purpose of the exhibition is to help the person who is just going through a such process understand what is going on in their body and mind and hopefully to identify their needs and distinguishing their passions and interests.
If you are in Toruń, then go check out the amazing Center! After you fill your head with some exciting knowledge, you can fill yourself with some gingerbread!