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Hands-on Exhibit Demonstrates Impact of Liquefaction

29 April 2019

Visitors to Quake City, Canterbury Museum’s earthquake exhibition, can play with Christchurch’s coolest sand pit to learn about the science behind liquefaction.

The Museum has added a hands-on interactive model to Quake City that demonstrates how the ground liquefied in parts of Canterbury during the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes, burying streets and sinking buildings.

Commissioned by the Museum especially for Quake City, from German company Hüttinger Interactive Exhibitions, the model pumps air into a bed of sand, causing it to shift and liquefy much like the ground did during the earthquakes.

Blocks representing buildings sink into the liquefied sand, while lighter plastic balls float to the surface, as happened with some of the city’s buried infrastructure. Visitors can understand the benefits of building on piles by placing the model buildings and balls on metal poles to stop them sinking into the sand.

The liquefaction model is one of a number of interactives at Quake City, which include a bike-powered video and Lego sets where visitors can design earthquake-resistant buildings for the new Christchurch.

Canterbury Museum Director Anthony Wright says the model will make Quake City an even more popular attraction for visitors to Christchurch.

“I’m sure this new exhibit will bring even more people through the door,” Wright says. “It’s a brilliant way for visitors to Christchurch to understand the physical impacts of liquefaction. I hope lots of locals come and try out the exhibit, particularly during our annual free entry weekend in early August.”

The model was funded by Tonkin + Taylor. Mike Jacka, Senior Geotechnical Engineer and key member of Tonkin + Taylor’s Canterbury Earthquake Recovery team, hopes the model might teach people how to build a more resilient city.

“I think this is a great investment to inform and educate visitors and locals alike, and raise awareness of how we can better plan and build our homes, towns and cities to be resilient to nature’s challenges,” he says.

In 2018, Quake City had more visitors than in any previous calendar year, with a record 62,780 visiting the exhibition.

Quake City is supported by major sponsor the Earthquake Commission (EQC).

Quake City, 299 Durham Street North, corner Armagh Street, open 10.00 am to 5.00 pm daily (except Christmas Day). Admission charges apply.

A video of Dr Cor Vink, Canterbury Museum Curator Natural History, explaining how the model works can be found here and is available under a Creative Commons Commercial Attribution Licence.

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