Canada Science and Technology Museum explores sound with new exhibit

Sound by Design is a new exhibition at the revamped Canada Science and Technology Museum exploring 150 years of sound recording and music making.

Revamped museum's new exhibit a 'sensory experience' delving into all things aural

Be a dj at the new Sound by Design exhibition at Science and Tech Museum. 0:30

Sound by Design is a new exhibition at the revamped Canada Science and Technology Museum exploring 150 years of sound recording and music making. It's an interactive experience that invites visitors to make some noise by trying out instruments, dancing to motion-activated sound machines and taking a spin as DJ on an oversized turn table.

"Our goal is to engage visitors in a sensory experience," said Christina Tessier, the museum's director general.

"To create a sense of curiosity and discovery, that's where those hands-on and body-on interactives are really important."

Three years after a leaky roof and mould forced it to shut down, the renovated museum is set to reopen Friday with an array of new, cutting-edge exhibitions, as well as some old favourites.

Blasts from the past

The museum's formidable collection of inventions traces the evolution of sound research and innovation in technology. It's a fascinating look at how passionate inventors, scientists and music lovers pioneered the science of sound design and products that changed how the world listened.
Alexander Graham Bell used a real human ear to try to understand how we hear sound. This exhibit uses a 3D replica. (CBC)
In 1874, Alexander Graham Bell came up his own rather macabre version of a phonautograph because he wanted know what sound looked like. The inventor attached a real human ear to his listening machine to see how it would respond to sound vibrations. The museum's model has substituted a 3D replica of an ear for the real thing.
Koss Stereophones were must-have listening devices for audiophiles in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. (Sandra Abma/CBC)

Edison's 1912 gramophone occupied a stately place in the parlour, while Koss Stereophones were must-have headsets for audiophiles in the 1960s and '70s.

Electronic Sackbut made in Ottawa

In his garage in Ottawa, physicist and composer Hugh Le Caine invented the world's first musical synthesizer, the Electronic Sackbut. From 1945-48 Le Caine tinkered on his contraption made of wood, wires and a keyboard, and ended up designing the sound machine that would revolutionize music making.
The world's first synthesizer, called the 'Electronic Sackbut,' was invented by Hugh Le Caine in his Ottawa garage. (Sandra Abma/CBC)

"Design really underscores so much about what we've come to know and understand about sound." said exhibition curator Tom Everrett. 

"Everything from scientific principles of sound to the ways we engage and play with music, all this has been influenced on a very deep level by technological innovation and questions of design, so that's what we want to explore in the exhibit," Everrett said.

And if visitors prefer the sound of silence, they can take refuge in the Quiet Cube, a chamber designed to eliminate echoes. Constructed from sound-absorbing materials, it's the perfect hideaway to find some peace and quiet.
The 'Quiet Cube' lets visitors experience the sound of silence. (Sandra Abma/CBC)