As a thriving arts and cultural hub, New York City is known for its diverse collection of museums — from world renowned institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art to unique finds like NYC’s Department of Sanitation gallery of scavenged objects. Part of the awe of these places can be attributed to their sheer size, but not all good things have to come in large packages. MICRO is redefining the idea of a museum by creating tiny, portable institutions, essentially the size of vending machines. 

MICRO’s Smallest Mollusk Museum inside the Brooklyn Public Library. Image via G. Richards

“It’s fundamentally important for everyone to have access” to science museums, says computational ecologist, Amanda Schochet, who founded New York-based nonprofit MICRO with her partner Charles Philipp, a content designer. The MICRO websites highlights the importance of this accessibility. In Manhattan, a wealth of knowledge is offered across 85 diverse museums. Comparatively, the Bronx is home to only eight, although both boroughs have the same population. Then there’s the factor of cost to consider, as entry admission is often expensive.

The Smallest Mollusk Museum. Image via MICRO

Today, MICRO and its team of designers, storytellers, and engineers is committed to building and providing access to high quality science education. In the early days of the project, Schochet and Philipp did everything themselves: now, they work with local manufacturers, using the latest 3D printing techniques to make the museums easily replicable and moveable.

With Science Sandbox (an initiative of the Simons Foundation) as its launch partner, MICRO debuted its first prototype, the Smallest Mollusk Museum, in 2016. In the future, the team intends to install their six-foot-tall museums in places you’d least expect to find them, including in airports, at the DMV and inside libraries. (There was also one at the old Untapped Cities offices at the GSAPP Incubator, as the MICRO team was a member of the New Museum’s incubator, NEW INC.)

In November 2017, the first museums in MICRO’s collection began launching across the city. There’s one currently on display at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Central Branch, and another installation was unveiled last week at the Ronald McDonald House, where the museum was temporarily disguised as a six-foot-tall present in the lobby for kids to unwrap.

MICRO’s Smallest Mollusk Museum inside the New Museum. Image via MICRO

Next in line is MICRO’s Perpetual Motion Museum, a physics museum that explores “humanity’s age-old quest to harness energy,” which will be released in late 2018. The trailer for the exhibition can be seen above. In the meantime, learn more about MICRO here.

Next, check out 10 Obscure Museums in New York City.