The Sant Ocean Hall

Review

of an Exhibition

by Megan Southwood

Published on February 17, 2010, Modified on February 18, 2010

  • Description:

    Media Creates Flow in the Sant Ocean Hall

    The Sant Ocean Hall is the newest and largest permanent exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. Although the exhibition opened in September 2008, and has already been the topic of many reviews, it is worth taking another look at what has made it so successful.

    Visitors to the Sant Ocean Hall are treated to an immersion experience through all of the senses. As you walk through the vast gallery, you take a tour through a thousand colors. Ocean blue-colored display cases are filled with colorful models, fossils and specimens. A large-scale model of a Right Whale seems to swim over your head as you hear various sounds of the ocean. As you walk through the exhibit, you feel a sense of life. A sense of movement flows from one display to the next and feel as though you have become a part of an aquatic environment.

    This sense of movement is created by ingeniously placed media displays throughout the exhibition. Ten large screens showcasing scenes of oceanic life surround the top of the exhibit, making the visitor feel as though they are in the deep ocean surrounded by the dynamic creatures featured in the gallery. Several video screens placed inside or alongside display cases, showcase aquatic animals featured in their natural habitats. The resulting effect is a visitor “experience” rather than simply a tour of the museum’s oceanic collections.

    Additional interactive displays allow visitors to watch scientists discuss their oceanic research or to find out more about various aquatic animals. But, don’t worry parents, you won’t be trying to pry your children away from interactives that are more like computer games. Rest assured, your children will simply enjoy the experience as you will. And if you are looking for more to do, you can also watch a film in the Deep Ocean Exploration Theater. But, the highlight of the exhibition is the Global Ocean Systems Gallery, which features a global sphere displaying various oceanic processes throughout the planet. It will keep visitors of all ages enthralled.

    In a time when museums are often trying to keep up with media trends such as podcasts and cell phone tours (which are sometimes creating technology solely for technology’s sake) I am still amazed when media can be so effective in taking a visitor “out of the museum” and “into the experience.” The mark of success is when the media is so effective in creating an atmosphere, that one doesn’t even realize it is there. The Sant Ocean Hall truly delivers on all accounts and is a must see exhibition if you are in the DC area.

    More information about the exhibition, as well as videos that appear in the exhibit and talks with exhibition team members, can be found on the Sant Ocean Hall website.

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