Hall of Gems

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Review

of an Exhibit

by Hannah Hamill

Published on April 01, 2011

  • Description:

    The Hall of Gems and Minerals at the Museum of Natural History utilizes a dynamic lighting scheme that effectively emphasizes the objects in the exhibit and creates a sense of environment. I entered the exhibit through the Gems and Minerals door and felt like I was at Tiffany’s or some other jewelry store. The cut gems, which were in individual cases, were lit by a key light and nothing else to make the gems sparkle. I half-expected to see a price tag next to each of the cases, which I believe was probably the intended effect. The Harry Winston room, which houses the Hope Diamond, was also lit like it was a jewelry showcase rather than a museum exhibit.

    The minerals room was more evenly lit in the cases along the walls, although the center of the room was a bit darker, presumably to mimic the atmosphere of a mine, which was also represented in the adjoining mining gallery. I did notice that the only cases that were lit differently were the stars and cat’s eyes case and the opal case—they were lit dimly from above to show the colors and patterns of the stones, whereas the other cases were more brightly and evenly lit. The rocks gallery had a lot of natural light coming in from a large window. The contrast of this bright room to the dark cave room gave me the sense that I was in the outdoors, which fit well with the theme.

    The Plate Tectonics and Volcanoes section was very dark, giving me the feeling that I was actually deep inside the earth. There was no natural light, and the ceilings were even painted black to make the room as dark as possible. The cases along the walls were lit up and the illuminated bright red and yellow text and graphic panels reminded me of lava. The Solar System section set the mood in a similar way. To make visitors feel a space-like atmosphere, the walls and ceiling were black and the cases were illuminated like stars or the moon. Despite the fact that these rooms were pretty dark, I still felt comfortable and was able to easily find my way through the exhibit.

    *Editor’s note: I wrote this review for a class on exhibition design.

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