Mess with Crazy Kitchen? No way

Ottawa Magazine - - THIS CITY -

It’s an ex­pe­ri­ence that sticks with you — for bet­ter or for worse. En­ter the Crazy Kitchen in­side the Canada Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Mu­seum, and you’re im­me­di­ately drawn back to an­other era by the ging­ham cur­tains, the checker­board floor­ing, and a farm­house sink in a space un­tar­nished by trendy up­dates. There’s sweet com­fort for those old enough to re­call a time com­ing home to a kitchen like this. That feel­ing is quickly over­shad­owed by the phys­i­cal delu­sion.

It’s not long be­fore you start to feel woozy and maybe even nau­seous in the an­gu­lar space. The squares and lines on the drapes and walls, com­bined with the slight an­gle of the floor, give you the wob­bles. Your eyes tell you one thing, and your in­ner ear tells you an­other. This dis­com­bob­u­la­tion is, in fact, the whole point of the ex­hibit and has been since its in­cep­tion in 1967.

“The orig­i­nal de­sign­ers wanted visi­tors to ex­pe­ri­ence what hap­pens when we throw off the senses and dis­tort ob­ser­va­tions,” says cu­ra­tor David Pan­talony. “This is a fun­da­men­tal ques­tion of sci­ence and also a fun thing to do in a sci­ence mu­seum.”

In­deed, this beloved gem of the mu­seum is one of the few things that re­main af­ter a mas­sive two-year $80-mil­lion ren­o­va­tion. When the mu­seum con­sulted its re­newal panel — a group of 800 peo­ple from all over Canada — cu­ra­tors were told, em­phat­i­cally, that they should un­der no cir­cum­stances mess with the Crazy Kitchen. Pan­el­lists wanted to be sure they could share the ex­pe­ri­ence with their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren.

The en­dur­ing ap­peal says some­thing about the muse­ol­ogy of the Crazy Kitchen. Some ex­hibits are easy to stum­ble through with­out really ab­sorb­ing the mes­sage. You can’t get away with that in­side the Crazy Kitchen. At the risk of over­an­a­lyz­ing, one might say that go­ing into that kitchen al­lows

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