Attractions industry news

19 Feb 2018

Ecsite: How shopping malls can drive attendance in science centres

Ecsite – the European Network of Science Centers and Museums – has looked at how shopping centres and retail areas can be used to drive attendance at science centres, specifically through tailored edutainment experiences.

As malls and shopping centres reinvent themselves to combat the rise of online retail, more and more entertainment options are being added to these venues, ranging anywhere from a simple VR experience, to a KidZania mini city.

For science engagement, Ecsite says that two trends are driving converenge with edutainment – competition and social inclusion. This means that science centres are trying to draw in customers and reach a diverse audience – both things a large retail venue can potentially offer.

In Austria, the ScienceCenter-Netzwerk – a body that focuses on hands-on engagement with sciences and technology – wanted to tackle the challenge of social inclusion. To do this, the organisation created the Knowledge°room project – a series of pop-up science engagement spaces, installed in empty retail venues.

“In Vienna many of our cultural and scientific institutions are located in rather intimidating neoclassical buildings,” said Heidrun Schulze, project manager at ScienceCenter-Netzwerk, speaking in Spokes – a monthly digital publication from Ecsite.

“When looking at the attendees of science engagement venues we had to admit that we kept attracting audiences with the same educational, social and cultural backgrounds, in spite of Vienna's multicultural population. We wanted to test something else.

“We see it as a first entry point to informal science learning and as a bridge to the established science institutions,” he continued. “A lot of our exhibits came from partners of our network, and these science engagement places were promoted inside the Knowledge°rooms, hoping to invite people to continue their exploration there.”

Since launching in 2013, the pop-ups, which are specifically placed in deprived areas of Vienna with multicultural populations, have offered a unique space with new learning experiences for visitors.

“Destination shopping centres have a lot in common with non-profit public receiving venues like museums or science centres: it's all about dwell time and holistic experiences,” said the Ecsite report.

“Not every activity in your mall needs to be a big cash earner: drawing people in is also a desirable currency. In come the healthcare, community and perhaps even science centres.”

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