Brown Lab
Indiana University

Through collaboration with Wonderlab, we have designed and installed an organic chemistry themed exhibit. The exhibit is centered on a scent identification game. When the museumgoer walks up to the exhibit they are directed towards one of 12 squeeze bottles containing a cotton ball and a small amount (2-3 drops) of the scent compound. The patron then squeezes one of the bottles to release a small amount of the compound. After smelling the compound the patron then tries to guess the scent. Placed near all of the scent bottles are “puzzle pieces” that museum goers try to then match to each scent bottle. Each puzzle piece contains information and “fun facts” teaching the patron about the compound. It is our hope that once the patron realizes that common scents are simply chemicals, they will want to know what a chemical actually is. Therefore, accompanying each scent bottle is a molecular model of the compound. In addition to the scent matching game, we have purchased molecular model kits such that the patrons can assemble their own structures. To assist with the building of structures we prepared a number of “how to” cards for building a variety of well-known chemicals (e.g., methane, caffeine, benzene, etc.). The exhibit is low cost to maintain, as all of the chemicals are non-toxic through inhalation, inexpensive, and the scent bottles will only need to be recharged on a ~6-24 month cycle. Furthermore, in contrast to many chemistry demonstrations, a volunteer or staff member will not have to be present to assist patrons with the exhibit. The total cost of the fully installed exhibit was ~$4000. The exhibit was supported with generous contributions from an ACS project innovation grant and the Southern Indiana Local Section of the ACS.


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