Feasibility study: Good prospects for visitor centre or science centre
A visitor centre or science centre on the European XFEL campus in Schenefeld, which would inform the public about the new X-ray free-electron laser facility and related fields of research, would be well-received within the region, and its site would be a favourable location. This is the conclusion of a feasibility study that was presented on 5 May at the Schenefeld Town Hall.
External experts from the consulting groups dwif-Consulting GmbH in Munich and fwi hamburg researched the possible visitor turnout, cost, concept, and financing estimates for a science centre or visitor centre at the European XFEL site in Schenefeld, through a 64 000€ grant coming in part from the Metropolitan Hamburg/Schleswig-Holstein Regional Development Fund. The study was initiated by the Town of Schenefeld, in cooperation with the District of Pinneberg, the City of Hamburg, and European XFEL with advisory support from the Projektgesellschaft Nordelbe. Additionally, the Berlin-based agency Archimedes provided an initial exhibition concept at the Town Hall meeting.
The goal of the planned visitor centre or science centre is to inform the public about scientific work, new areas of research, and related topics. While a visitor centre would predominantly serve to further understanding through education and information for schoolchildren, students, and the interested public, a science centre would focus on reaching as many different target groups as possible. Both variants researched in the study would include an exhibition area, laboratories for schoolchildren, as well as a multifunctional space for larger events.
“The new centre, with its high significance, would be a magnet for visitors”, explains Christiane Küchenhof, the mayor of the Town of Schenefeld. “It will present an outstanding opportunity for dialogue between scientists and the public, and it can communicate the societal importance of scientific work.”
The authors of the 160-page-long feasibility study said that such a centre could receive a particularly positive boost from being located in the populous and economically strong metropolitan region and from the authenticity of being situated at a globally unique research campus. But limited transportation access and relatively few other visitor attractions in the immediate surrounding give some cause for concern. For both variants, the study predicted a yearly need for subsidy of up to 450 000€, for which funding has not yet been secured.
The study predicted about 60 000 annual visitors for the visitor centre, while the science centre would attract around 150 000. Additionally, the study envisioned around 600 m² of exhibition space for the visitor centre, while the science centre would have about 1700 m². In both cases, alongside permanent and visiting exhibitions, there would be space for leading tours and events as well as three laboratories for schoolchildren with an area of 175 m² each.
“The European XFEL, under construction in Schenefeld, is a top-level research campus for international basic research. This guarantees the attraction of visitors and a competitive advantage independent of the centre’s specific features and design. Up to now, the metropolitan Hamburg region does not have an exceptional visitor or science centre. Schenefeld offers a unique chance to set up such a centre at a credible location”, says Andreas Konrath from fwi hamburg. “The two variants we looked at, a science centre and a visitor centre, show the scope of such an undertaking. The selection of one of the variants will depend upon which goals the centre will be expected to meet. The economic feasibility study has resulted in a typical picture—that this type of centre cannot be cost neutral on its own. Nevertheless, this is a worthy investment that will have an increasingly positive effect on the region.”
The Berlin-based communications agency Archimedes Exhibtions, together with European XFEL, developed a concept composed of a modular structure of the exhibition, in which the European XFEL will be the focus. Other exhibits will explain fundamental science and areas of research, topics which would play a bigger role in the science centre variant than in the visitor centre.
“The usefulness and effect of research and science is not always visible or tangible. To better understand these things, you will have to appeal to the senses to make it more real”, explains Jörg Schmidtsiefen from Archimedes Exhibitions Berlin. Interactive exhibits and labeled visualizations would strive to make difficult scientific concepts more understandable. Children and young adults would be among the main target groups, with the aim of cultivating interest in the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
“In the next weeks and months, together with our partners in Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg, we will figure out how the financial requirements spelled out in the study can be met”, says Claudia Burger, the administrative director at European XFEL. “In particular, there is a high demand to offer to school classes and students the experience of science at a location where it takes place. Therefore, the centre should inspire young people to get interested in science. We hope that the concepts presented today provide a fruitful foundation and that we will be able to find the necessary support.”
The current plan is summarized in a brochure available for download on the European XFEL website. Pictures are available on the European XFEL media database.