Sound Bite at the Otago Museum

Posted by Helen Townsend on

I am aware of how damaging single use plastics are - they last a whole lifetime and beyond and are made with an incredibly precious resource.

(Catriona Gower – Otago Museum)

If you translate the Te Reo word Tūhura, you will find that it means “to explore, discover and bring light to”. This is an excellent choice for the name of the impressive new science centre at Otago Museum, Dunedin. The space, which opened in December last year, features 45 stunning hands-on interactives that unlock and explain some complex scientific concepts and ideas.

One of the exhibits Kia Rongo Ngā Niho (Sound Bite) is a kids' interactive which explores how sound travels through solid objects more easily than through air and involves a biodegradable straw from The Rubbish WhispererSam Botting, the Science Centre Manager explained that the sounds waves that are heard on this interactive have passed from a rod, (which you hold with your teeth using a straw from The Rubbish Whisperer for hygienic safety), through your skull and vibrate against your eardrum.

The Science Communicator responsible for purchasing the straws for the exhibit, Catriona Gower, explained that as people are only engaging with the exhibit for seconds to minutes they wanted to ensure that the impact of the learning didn’t have a negative environmental impact. She explained the process that lead her to purchase from The Rubbish Whisperer:

‘When looking for suppliers we have quite strict criteria that we work through. Initially, we have to ensure the protection to the exhibits. Then, we want to ensure sustainability, so we required something that could be composted. Finally, we try to buy from companies that are NZ based as we are council funded and are keen to keep money in NZ and support a circular economy…ultimately, the principles behind your business sold me.”

She added, that while they did consider plant based plastics, which are more generally available and sometimes cheaper, they are still actually plastic and therefore can’t be composted. A common misconception for a great deal of ‘eco-packaging’.


The success of this exciting educational space is evident in the huge visitor numbers which it has drawn to date. So, if you are looking to plan a weekend away then why not head down to Dunedin to make some discoveries of your own!


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