New science museum in Ghent set to open its doors next year

Gum logo Engels

Gum logo Engels

In 2020, Ghent will be able to add another museum to an already impressive list. The brand-new Ghent University Museum (GUM) is located at the centre of the Ghent Botanical Garden, right around the corner from MSK Gent and S.M.A.K.

The GUM will be a museum dedicated to science, research and critical thinking, where visitors are invited to discover that science is borne out of failure and success, doubt and imagination. The new University Museum will officially open its doors to the public on Saturday March 21 st and Sunday March 22 nd , 2020.

The GUM, a forum for science, doubt and art

The museum will offer insight into the university’s unique scientific collections, ranging from the fields of Biology to Ethnography, and from Medicine to Psychology. The visitor will be able to really delve into the scientist’s brain. Which challenges does he/she face? And how does that impact our lives and ways of thinking? A museum you can explore, but which will also make you doubt any preconceived notions.

Following in finback whale Leo’s footsteps

Over the past couple of years, you were already given a taste of the new museum’s rather distinct approach, e.g. through the installation featuring finback whale Leo’s skeleton in the Saint Bavo Cathedral. The finback whale, which ended up on the prow of a ship in the Ghent harbour, was put on display in the cathedral, accompanied by a poem written by Peter Verhelst. The GUM expresses the desire to continue along this path, in order to strengthen the dialogue between art, science and society.

"The GUM will be a museum-sized translation of the university’s slogan ’Dare to Think’, a science museum that places a special emphasis on the quest for knowledge. It will not be a one-sided ode to scientific success stories, nor a shrine dedicated to a selection of brilliant minds. It will, however, provide visitors with a realistic account of scientific practice with all of its human pitfalls, told by an academic community who embraces scientific thinking in their motto. Science will be depicted as a creative, ever-evolving and pluralist concept. In short: in all its glory." Marjan Doom, GUM director.


Not a mere ode to the university

Ghent University chooses neither to only bring an ode to its own accomplishments, nor to just focus on the wonderful achievements by scientists up in their ivory tower. It will tell the story of science in its myriad forms, through trial and error.

"We aim to bring every aspect of science to a wide audience in this new Ghent museum, and show people what it is really all about: we paint a complete picture, strewn with tantalising propositions, facts, questions and experiments. Moreover, we will include the scientist’s instances of doubt, moments of surprise as well as his/her many discoveries. At the GUM, you will be able to experience the essence of science. This university is fully committed to its pioneering role as a manager of the largest academic heritage collection in Flanders." Rik Van de Walle, Ghent University rector.


 A museum for all who dare to think

Visitors can expect a great variety of initiatives, including a comprehensive series of lectures, tours, debates and workshops. In order to realise this, he GUM will closely collaborate with the university, as well as with other cultural, societal and educational organisations.

It is no coincidence that the museum will open its doors in March 2020. You will be able to combine a visit to the GUM with a stop at the important Van Eyck exhibit at MSK Gent (February 1 st to February 30 th , 2020) or a wander around the Ghent Floralies (May 1 st to May 10 th , 2020). Save the date: March 21 st and 22 nd , 2020!

Examples objects GUM

Vascular resin cast of a horse’s eye, image on the right  This cast depicts the arteries present in the eye of a horse. It is used for morphological studies and educational purposes in veterinary sciences. These types of casts are made by injecting synthetic resin into hollow blood vessels. This technique hails back to the days of Leonardo da Vinci, who was making casts using beeswax in as early as the 15 th century. Clearly, art and science are closely related.

century, Ghent University’s first psychologist, Jules Van Biervliet, used this ’hat’ (a craniometer) in order to measure the skull surface of his patients. He wanted to document physical characteristics in an attempt to unravel their psyches. People have long been interested in the shape of the skull. The 19 th century pseudoscience ’phrenology’ proclaimed that a ’bump’ in a skull proves that a certain part of the brain is highly developed, whereas a ’dent’ points to the contrary. The current knowledge about the brain’s anatomy obviously shows that there is no immediate relation between the shape of the skull and the development of the human brain.

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