“Science is everyone’s heritage and our challenge is to reach large segments of the population”

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Miguel Angel Gonzalez Exposito, President of Fundoro. Fran balero

It was in 1991 that IES professors Villalba Hervás and Rafael Arozarena, both located in La Orotava, decided to organize a colloquium on the history of science. The success of the following editions led to an idea that gradually developed and consolidated eight years later with the creation of the Fundación Canaria Orotava de Historia de la Ciencia (Fundoro), an institution dedicated to the promotion of studies, of the education and dissemination of history. of science, in particular in aspects relating to the Canary Islands. It is based at No. 17 in the middle of El Calvario Street and its activity has grown steadily in recent years. Its director, Miguel Ángel González Exposito, says their managers have consolidated important projects. “We are determined that our work reaches as many people as possible and that is why we organize workshops, exhibitions, seminars, conferences and symposia, that is, we diversify as much as possible because we are clear that we need to develop, “he said. said.

– Do you think that the institution touches the community or is it still a little elitist?
“This is what we are trying. We recently verified that we were at what we were not before, because we had the impression that the institution was a little elitist, and that it was designed only for intellectuals. We tried to fight this idea and this feeling because it’s not true, science is a legacy. Everyone and our challenge is to reach large segments of the population. And modestly, I believe, in recent years, steps have been taken in this direction. Now people come to contact us who have not done so before, and the activities come from other places, such as town halls, which take us into account for their cultural weeks, or neighborhood associations, which ask us for an exhibition. This has never happened before. In other words, we are not unaware of our origins but are convinced that our work must expand, because the history of science is a discipline which can be familiar even to people who have no academic training. example are the travelers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries who came to the Canary Islands. There are people in their families who have always heard of Ted’s Expedition Companions and when they see an exhibit and are told about it, there is always someone in their family who has heard of it.

Why has it taken so long to achieve this goal?
“Because it’s difficult. In all the institutions, there is a period of consolidation and this has cost Fundoro dear because it is an entity that depends on public institutions and convinces them that the investment they make here is profitable from the point of view of l interest that citizens have. It’s complex. “

I understand that when you talk about the history of science, you are referring to science in general, and not to a discipline in particular …
“The advantage of the history of science is that it is an interdisciplinary subject. Our activities are followed by a diverse audience, from linguists, philosophers and historians to chemists, mathematicians and biologists, to name a few. In other words, there is no discipline because precisely what the history of science does is to fight against the barriers which separate or specialize men in the world of ideas. This is why our message is that the history of science must serve as a link between different subjects, but also between different sectors. In this sense, we have seen with pleasure that the institution has become a meeting point between secondary and junior teachers. It’s hard to find in other areas because they work separately. However, with the projects that we are developing here, like the Canarias otra Mirada exhibition, which is presented in Madrid until October 28, we have a collaboration between the two.
-The model of the water mills exhibited at the entrance to the institution’s headquarters, which brings the city’s living history closer to the citizen, does it have to do with the adaptation of the discourse sought by the institution?

“Actually, because it’s a familiar sight. People walk past the headquarters and don’t know what the institution is, but they stop and come in to see the model. They are neighbors of the city and they know what is there. It was one of the objectives, to make the various professions accessible to all. It’s about discovering the things that we organize, Because sometimes you think they are unpleasant activities but believe in them because you don’t know them. Be careful, I’m not saying that everything we do will captivate everyone, but there may be something that can be used without knowing it, and it is our duty to disseminate it so that it is accessible to all citizens ”.

– Where does Fundoro find the resources to be able to organize activities?
“We are an entity of public interest but we operate through a board of directors that governs us and is made up of four institutions: the Town Hall of La Orotava, the Town Hall of Tenerife, the University of La Laguna and the Government of Canary Islands. He is. The way they control us. In other words, we take the activities that we propose to the board to see if it has been approved or not, because the resources with which we implement the projects come from these institutions. The headquarters, for example, belong to the Town Hall of La Orotava, which last year gave us the ground floor allowing us to expand a little more. We are currently equipping a Group A museum there, linked to travelers who visited us in the 18th and 19th centuries. the exhibition. The latter aims, in a series of rooms, to immerse the people who visit us in the economic and social context in which the travelers found themselves upon their arrival in the Canary Islands. In November, the first room will open, an interior reconstruction of the cabin of a 17th century ship. And there we will represent the mapping and navigation room. Later we will add other units that show what volcanology and geology looked like when these travelers arrived, botany and zoology, landscapes and society. This is to give a general idea of ​​what travelers found when they visited us. More specifically, the goal that drove us to bring the Canarias otro gaje exhibition to Madrid was to improve a bit the way we see the Canary Islands from the outside, because there is not only the sun and the beach here, but also the culture and the part that relates to what travelers did back then.

Is science done in the Canaries?
“It’s not what we would like, but it has been done. There are sectors and working groups that are doing very interesting things, but we only remember science when we have a very complex problem at the top. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is turning to science to beat this and the same is happening. With the Cumbre Vieja volcano. There is ignorance in many fields, in geology for example. Among other things, because in secondary schools this subject has been completely excluded. Thus, we realize that the population ignores, for example, many aspects of the volcanic mechanism Although we live on volcanoes. We think that in general culture we have to know, for example, who wrote Don Quixote, but not who Newton or Einstein was, and who did things as fundamental as Beethoven’s music. This is due to the fact that it is necessary to generate that science is part of the general culture and that scientists do not only have to communicate their work. Not only must they do it, but they must also do well, even if the subject is complex. How can people be expected to intervene in a discussion about the use of stem cells if they do not know What is a cell? This is why our objective is to make people understand that science is not something closed and watertight, but that it is interconnected and accessible to all. They kept calling us until the message got through.

Are initiatives like the science fair necessary to reach out to the community?
“It’s absolutely essential because it includes the population and when you put on a show, there are more possibilities to reach out and get to know them. The Town Hall of La Orotava has a long history of promoting cultural activities that include people on the basis of the belief that they can also be happy to promote culture, as it gives the feeling that it is leisure or watching the television or football games, which is important. Real. But we also defend and believe that pleasurable situations and fun can be accessed through cultural events. “

Does the organization have future challenges?
“Continue to reach out to the whole community because we are not settling down. Even though we believe that important steps have been taken in this direction, there are still people who do not know us. Our idea is not that they know us in the Canaries, in our closest context, but in each of them. opportunities for the institution to be better known and more people will come to discover us. It is an exciting project because there is no museum in the Canary Islands specifically dedicated to travelers and scientific expeditions which is a subject on which Fundoro has been working for over 20 years, it is associated with very prestigious institutes in other countries, such as the Max Planck Institute in Germany. It is complex and difficult and there is a lot of work to be done.

Is there a time to prepare all the rooms?
“My idea is that in 2024 the whole thing will be completed. The first room is practically ready, while waiting for the decoration to be completed, but there are still four rooms left: the room of volcanoes, geology, geology, botany, landscapes, nature, climatology and health, because at this time the Canary Islands began to appear. It is an ideal destination for people with certain illnesses. There are already people working everywhere. We are doing well at the moment and I think we will be successful. The idea is to find the resources to place the staff and that the room is always open.

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