The Guardian is reporting that an Australian man, Dean Smith, is taking legal action against the Scienceworks museum in Melbourne. He injured himself in an interactive exhibit whilst racing against a virtual athlete, subsequently hitting a real wall.
The museum invites visitors to participate in “sporting challenges” in the Sportworks exhibit. It describes the exhibit as “a place to leap, run, throw and row”.
“Pit your skills against some of Australia’s best-known sportspeople and investigate your body’s abilities for particular sports. Are you tall? Flexible? Can you jump high, run fast or react quickly?”
Visitors to the Scienceworks museum can compare their own performance against a simulation of Cathy Freeman. Freeman is an Olympic 400m gold medallist and viewed by many as Australia’s greatest athlete.
Dean Smith, a pool glass installer, tried this out in June last year. He fractured his spine by running into the wall at the end of the 10m dual-lane track.
Scienceworks absolutely committed to safety
He is was now suing the Museums Board of Victoria – which operates the museum – for negligence for unspecified damages.
A feature of the Scienceworks museum for over a decade, the digital exhibit, consists of a series of images of Freeman. They illuminate in quick succession to highlight her speed on the running track.
Dean Smith said, “All these little things made me think I could beat her, I got a bit competitive, thinking ‘I can take on Cathy Freeman. Then when I was 30cm from the wall I saw what was going to stop me.”
His writ says the museum had failed to prevent the risk of injury, the track was poorly lit and should not have led to a wall.
A spokeswoman for Museums Victoria told Guardian Australia that Scienceworks was unable to comment on active legal proceedings. “Scienceworks has been one of Melbourne’s favourite attractions for a quarter of a century, and is absolutely committed to the safety of the hundreds of thousands of children and families who visit every year.”