Curating ‘Hello Brain!’ at The Francis Crick Institute

Hello Brain!

By Holly Cave, Creative Lead

31 January 2024

Connectomics, craftwork and creativity: A Q&A with Holly about curating the Crick’s new exhibition, Hello Brain! which opens in March 2024.

Q: Tell us about the exhibition

A: The Francis Crick Institute has a beautiful ground floor gallery space that holds temporary exhibitions that run for about a year. The one I’m working on focuses on the science of connectomics looking at how scientists are trying to map all the connections between neurons in the brains of humans and animals. Scientists like those at the Crick are essentially asking how our brains and our minds work, and how that influences how we see and interpret the world. It’s incredibly exciting subject matter.

Q: What’s your ambition for the project on a personal level?

We’ve been working with access consultant Katie Gonzalez-Bell throughout the development process so that we can make the exhibition as accessible as possible. This for me is such an important element – that what we create is open to all – and exciting in its own right.

What I’d love is if a person who came with little to no knowledge of brain science could come away inspired and excited by this fascinating field of research. Visitors to the Crick’s exhibitions tend to be from older age groups, with a reasonably high level of pre-existing scientific knowledge. That audience will always exist, and they are important to the Crick, but we’re really trying to shift that demographic to bring in more younger adults and people who don’t necessarily have a high level of science capital. We’re hoping to break down barriers by encouraging potential visitors to see it as a cultural activity – in the same way they’d go to the cinema or visit an art gallery.

Q: Who participated in bringing the exhibition together?

A: The exhibition – as with so much of the Crick’s wider programming – is trying to involve and include people from the local community right from the beginning. If you visit, you’ll find out about the group of mothers who we worked with to gather their perspectives on their experience of bearing and raising children. They bring so much humanness and heart to the exhibition – and the Crick scientist involved so valued hearing their thoughts about his research, which is usually far removed from personal experiences.

Ultimately, we’re trying to bring science into society and culture. The idea is to create something that’s fun and that speaks to people at every level.

Q: What’s unique about this exhibition space?

A: Good question. It’s not a traditional exhibition space in many ways. What is amazing about it is that anybody can walk inside this huge building in which cutting-edge science is happening.

The architecture is such that as you walk in, your eye is drawn upwards through the floor-to-ceiling atrium, and you can get a glimpse of the inner workings of an active research centre. The Crick isn’t a museum. It’s not designed for that purpose, and it’s not open at the weekends, for example, because it’s a working building. And sometimes, the exhibition space must be turned over for conferences and events. This means that the space does have challenges in that it needs to be flexible and must draw in visitors during the working day.

Q: How will the exhibition look?

A: We wanted to create something that is as immersive as possible within the constraints of the space. Without giving too much away, we’re intending to create an environment that frames the space, the idea being that it will feel like you’re walking through the folds of the brain. It’s going to be very illustrative, very visual, with things to watch and listen to, and interact with.

It will be bright, playful, and inviting in tone, and we’re currently working with our 2D and 3D designers on that – using a bright acid colour palette and a strong graphic language. There will also be lots of handcrafted things that we’ve commissioned from keen knitters, crocheters and professional embroiderers.

Q: How does your approach differ to past exhibitions?

A: The exhibitions program at the Crick has been running for several years now, but it’s still relatively young. Each exhibition has its own clear identity and this one will be no different. We’re working with architectural designers Galmstrup, and that will be one thing that’s different about this one: It will feel a lot more like an experience than previous exhibitions.

Q: Do you have a date for the exhibition launch? How much does it cost?

A: The exhibition is totally free to visit, and it will be open to the public from Saturday 2nd March 2024.

Learn more about Hello Brain! on the Crick website