Jesse Jarnow

museum of natural history, no. 3: the gem room, 4/06

One way the Museum blurs facts into emotional half-truths is through atmosphere. Ostensibly, the Museum is devoted to the scientific, but the theatrical presentation is extraordinarily important. My favorite example is the squid vs. whale battle in the Hall of Ocean Life, where a fake whale battles a fake squid in a dark display case with no glass between the viewer and the subject. But that’s unphotographable, at least with my cell-a-roid.

A close second, and another childhood favorite, is the Gem Room (which I think is actually called the Gem Room). It is dark and circular, with all kinds of ramps and nooks and miniature amphitheaters and artifacts you can actually touch. As a kid, the room felt like a respite, with numerous places to hide and sit (a welcome break for a young biped). Despite the obstacle course Rachel and I had to cross to get there, it still felt that way. I love the vibe of the room.

A few years ago, I made an ambient sound collage out of very quiet FM static and drone-organ designed to be listened to in the Gem Room (as well as with the collection of meteorites next door). Oddly, I still haven’t actually listened to it there. It was called “A Clear Night.”

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