Traveling Exhibition Launch: Forever Lab



Fresh on the heels of  A Glass of the Sea's three-month run in our galleries comes another new exhibition, called Forever Lab: Will You Still Love Me at 150? This new traveling exhibition conceptualized by The Mind Museum explores the science behind longevity, our quest for it, as well as the social implications that follow if we succeed.

Human beings have long sought the fountain of youth to address the brevity of our lifespans; from the alchemists' pursuit of the philosopher's stone to modern scientists' studies on the telomerase enzyme, the quest for immortality is something that continues to elude yet excite us.

While we don't exhibit the lengthy life spans of animals like tortoises (who live up to 255 years, we have made some progress. Due to the advent of modern medical science, we have gone from a global life expectancy of 48 in 1950, to 67.2 in 2010. Current longevity research suggests that this could go much higher, to well over a 100.

As you enter the exhibit, it welcomes you with the following questions: What will you do if you live to be 150? What do you think will give you a long life? 

The exhibit begins with a display of different cultural practices and traditions involving longevity, from regions like India, China, Tibet, North America, and the Philippines. For instance, having large ears is considered as an omen of long life, according to an old Bisayan belief1. Perhaps this is connected to the fact that as we age, our ears continue to grow2!

Middle and old age is also a time of significance and celebration in Chinese culture, with a man's average life expectancy during the Qing dynasty at 42, and a woman's at 41. Reaching old age is therefore a feat, which may explain their fondness for longevity customs, such as the consumption of longevity noodles (Sau mein)3.

Drawing on this popular belief, the exhibition is divided into different 'boxes': instead of walls, long tassels hang like noodles to frame each space.



As time passed and we moved away from tradition, we moved toward a more scientific understanding of longevity. The exhibit also shows a brief history of research in aging, along with statistics of the Philippine population. Can you guess what the average life span of a Filipino is?


The next part of the exhibit explores what we currently know about how certain factors contribute to longevity: the impact of exercise, sugar metabolism, food portions, genes, productivity, marriage, and environment are all discussed.

The exhibition also covers the concept of Blue Zones, geographical areas where their residents live markedly longer lives. Blue zones have so far been found in Sardinia (Italy), Okinawa (Japan), Icaria (Greece), Nicoya (Costa Rica), and Loma Linda (California). In Icaria, for instance, nearly 1 out of 3 people make it to their 90's. 

But what is it about their lifestyles which lead to such uncommonly long lives? What food do they tend to eat? What activities do they engage in and refrain from? And by extension, what lifestyle should you lead if you wish to reach a 100?

In his research on the Blue Zones, author Dan Buettner also identifies laughter as one of the most important elements of a long, hearty life - and truly, laughter does have its benefits. Aside from lowering stress levels, it also boosts your immune system. The exhibition features this as well, highlighting moments of happiness captured on film.

The pictures used in the exhibition were crowd-sourced, donated by individuals to The Museum as part of its online Share a Laugh campaign. In turn, their smiles will be immortalized as the exhibition travels around the country.


The next space is called Snapshots from the Future, a playful future speculation on how an average person 148 years of age could likely be spending her years.


With potential developments in medicine, one need not imagine future centenarians' lifestyles to be limited. The exhibit shows "Emily" at 80 years old, enrolling in school, and dedicating herself to lifelong learning. And at 148, "Emily" is a great-great-great-grandmother!

The exhibition also provides opportunities for interaction and reflection. Take photos of yourself as the model for our magazine cover, and have your picture taken for your Senior Citizen ID! 


And lastly, now that you've seen how "Emily" can lead a full and happy life at 150, how do you plan to live yours? What would you plan to learn with so much time? How many lovers would you like to have? What do you plan to eat more and less of? Answer these questions on the colorful pieces of fabric provided, and string them onto the frames of the exhibition.


The Forever Lab exhibition may leave you pondering these questions for the better part of your day, but that is to be expected - after all, the prospect of living well beyond a century can redefine what it means to live a fulfilling life. 


To learn more about the Mind Museum's upcoming and regular activities, visit our website, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!


REFERENCES:

1. Demetrio, F. (1969). Toward a classification of Bisayan folk beliefs and customs. Philippine Studies 17(1): 3-39.
2. Niemitz, C., Nibbrig, M., Zacher, V. (2007). Human ears grow throughout the entire lifetime according to complicated and sexually dimorphic patterns - conclusions from a cross-sectional analysis. Anthropol Anz 65(4): 391-413.
3. Smith, R. (2015). The Qing Dynasty and traditional Chinese culture. Rowman & Littlefield.

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