Lord Rutherford: father of nuclear physics

Scientific discovery and hands-on experimentation takes centre stage at the state-of-the-art Rutherford’s Den in the Arts Centre, Christchurch, where New Zealand scientist Ernest, Lord Rutherford started his scientific career in these very rooms.

A million dollars in $NZ100 bills
A million dollars in $NZ100 bills

Rutherford, the moustached man on the $NZ100 note, discovered what the inside of an atom looks like, found out about radioactivity, discovered and named alpha and beta particles, and was the first scientist to change one element into another. As a pioneer of his time, it’s only fitting that cutting-edge technology is being used to tell his story, says Arts Centre CEO André Lovatt.

“We’ve carefully kept the beautiful heritage features but have injected the space with new energy by using state-of-the-art storytelling techniques that will appeal to people of all ages.

“You can literally step inside an exhibition that illustrates what atoms are, or use your own movements to learn about renewable energy sources. In the actual space where Rutherford conducted his research on radio waves, there’s a projection of him that includes original voice recordings – making you feel as though you’re in the same room as him.”

A bad selfie of me with Andre Lovat
A bad selfie of me with Andre Lovat

The original Lecture Theatre is exactly as it was – graffiti and all – until the digital screen at the front starts playing a movie that was commissioned by the Arts Centre.

“So much of what Rutherford discovered led to the technology we enjoy today and we want visitors to learn about this in fun and exciting ways. We want it to be a place where people of all backgrounds are inspired to believe that everyone has the potential to achieve greatness.”

Before the earthquakes, Rutherford’s Den was popular with locals, tourists and schools that participated in its curriculum-linked education programme and the popular education sessions are now once again being offered on-site at the Arts Centre. Bookings, and further information can be found on www.rutherfordsden.org.nz

Rutherford’s Den is located in the Arts Centre’s historic Clock Tower building at 2 Worcester Boulevard, adjacent to the Great Hall that re-opened in June.

For more than a century, the Arts Centre site was home to Canterbury College and from 1890 one of its students was Rutherford. He was a regular Kiwi who became known as the father of nuclear physics and in 1908 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

The reopening of Rutherford’s Den is a significant milestone in the staged re-opening of the Arts Centre and I will post more about the new-look den next week.

In spring the adjacent North Quadrangle and Library will be accessible once again, along with a number of new cafés and food outlets. By the end of 2016, almost half the site will again be open to the public.

Passing The Arts Centre
Tram passing the Arts Centre

Author: Heather - the kiwi travel writer

Nomadic travel-writer, photographer, author & blogger. See more on http://kiwitravelwriter.com and Amazon for my books (heather hapeta)

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