Our new Earth Gallery opens tomorrow, and I think you’re going to love it.
Even with everything I’ve already heard about the gallery, the variety of experiences that it will offer continues to amaze me. Case in point: there must be almost 50 interactives and multimedia exhibits, including computer games, animations, videos, dioramas and hands-on activities.
This animation, for example, is from the gallery. It’s a smart inclusion, not only because it explains a basic concept of the gallery (plate tectonics), but also because it does so using visuals. Animations can give life to abstract concepts—here, it’s the tectonic processes of subduction, spreading and mountain building.
Many of the two dozen animations in the gallery are interactive, so you’re going to have to make a point of visiting in order to play them. You will be able to make different kinds of volcanoes and different kinds of earthquakes, depending on how you adjust the “ingredients”. Drag and drop ancient land masses into place to explore the supercontinental puzzle that is Pangaea.
Most dramatic of all is our trio of rock machines, the magmanator, metamorphicator and sedimentator, whose steel works hold the secrets behind the three kinds of rock.
A large new diorama combines old- and new-school media to tell the story of the rock cycle (how the three types of rock transform into one another within the Earth). The model gives simple physical form to concepts that nobody has actually seen in action. Animated videos supplement the basics with further details about where the rocks form in the Earth. The finishing touch: real rock specimens as examples.
Almost a dozen live-action videos bring us back into the human world of geologic study. Some examples:
- Follow some of the museum’s experts into the field and the lab for a glimpse into how geologists observe and collect data about Earth’s history and processes.
- “Join” a mineral collection manager in the field on the hunt for specimens, and see inside the mineral collection.
- See state-of-the-art lab equipment in action: a scanning electron microscope, a microprobe, an X-ray powder diffractometer and a single-crystal X-ray diffractometer.
- Watch a mineral grow in a time-lapse video that you can control: faster or slower, forwards or backwards.
- And of course we’re including footage of geological processes in action: volcanic eruptions, flowing lava, weathering, erosion and striking landscapes.
And finally, put yourself in a researcher’s shoes by getting hands-on in the Mineral Lab. Observe for yourself what density means by hefting rock samples. Enjoy the surprise of minerals fluorescing when you shine a UV light. Get clear on the concepts of transparency, translucency, opacity and double refraction. Play with magnets and metals to explore magnetic and non-magnetic properties of certain minerals.
Even if you’re not a person who learns best by doing, experiences like these can’t help but engage you.
In fact, we hope the entire Earth Gallery will engage you. The gallery team has made an effort to offer information and experiences in many forms. Even within this “category”, interactives and animations, there is much variety of form and content. Whether we’re talking about these, or the gallery overall, there’s plenty to do, plenty to enjoy, plenty to learn.
The brand-new Earth Gallery opens to the public tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.