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Earth Theater Lifts Audiences with "SkyVision"

The new eye-popping Earth Theater, located on the first floor of the museum beyond Dinosaur Hall, has just opened to the public. At the center of the excitement is SkyVision, a multi-media technology that surrounds audiences in 210 degrees of high-resolution video.

SkyVision is BIG. How big? Five projectors seamlessly integrate huge—that’s 100 million pixels per second huge -- images onto a screen 40 feet in diameter and 10 feet high. The curved screen wraps around you. Those seated in the theater’s 65 seats experience a visual crispness and immersion that surpasses even IMAX films. Five projectors, five computers, five digital speakers, and 120 watts of bass produce a "you’re right there" experience unlike anything before. 

The Earth Theater is the first in the world built solely for SkyVision, says Kerry Handron, who joined Carnegie Museum of Natural History last summer to coordinate the Earth Theater project. Handron, formerly with the Houston Museum of Natural Science, notes that SkyVision is typically used in planetarium settings, as is the case in Houston. But SkyVision, she says, produces an even more dramatic effect when projected onto a wrap-around screen rather than a planetarium ceiling.

"The Millennium Show" is the Earth Theater’s first offering. Created by Handron and a team of multimedia collaborators, the show takes viewers through events that shaped the earth, including the creation of the moon, possible beginnings of life, and the age of dinosaurs. "You feel like you’re flying away from the Earth and looking back at it," says Handron. 

Digital production, including the capability for 3-D images, will allows the museum to create its own shows and change them every six months. According to Handron, "With this technology, we can support traveling exhibits and collaborate with partners to highlight innovations and discoveries made in Pittsburgh."

The Earth Theater is funded by the R.K. Mellon Foundation, and in part by "Mission to Planet Earth," a NASA grant shared by The Houston Museum of Natural Sciences, Rice University and Carnegie Museum of Natural History. 

Enjoy the "Millennium Show" every half hour: Tuesday-Friday 10:30 am to 3:00 pm; Saturday 10:30 am to 4:00 pm; and Sunday 1:30pm to 4: 00 pm Members/Children/Seniors/Groups: $2.00; Non-members: $3.00

Meet the Scientist

Maritime Archaeologist Dave Watters 

"Archaeologist": A scientist who recovers and studies the material evidence—such as graves, buildings, tools, and pottery—from past human life and culture.

What would lead a boy from Natrona Heights, Pennsylvania, to become a maritime archaeologist in the Caribbean? A love of history, discovery, and the outdoors, says Dave Watters, archaeologist and curator-in-charge of the Section of Anthropology at Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

For the past 25 years, Watters has focused his attention on the islands of the Caribbean, which has become a rich area of exploration for archaeologists. The West Indies—as the islands of the Caribbean are called--is the major group of islands in the Western Hemisphere inhabited by humans in prehistoric times.

Together with scientific colleagues from all over the world, Watters has uncovered important information about the Amerindian settlers from South America who lived in the Caribbean before Europeans started arriving in 1492. Tragically, European settlement annihilated the Amerindians. "Archaeology," says Watters, "is the only way to find out more about the centuries of these prehistoric people."

Through Watters’ research, prehistoric habitation on the islands can be dated back to 2000 B.C., an earlier date than had previously been set. His study of island pottery indicates that pottery-making there dates back to 500 B.C.—again, much earlier than had been thought. "The fact that the Amerindians arrived in the Caribbean by boat tells us something amazing about the capabilities of these seafarers 4000 years ago," says Watters.

Watters’ overarching interest is in maritime adaptations; that is, how people adapt to a life dominated by the sea. The relationship of maritime archaeology to oceanography led him to do post-graduate work at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts, known for the work of Robert Ballard, who discovered the remains of the Titanic, as well as other lost vessels.

Watters notes that, as a museum archaeologist, he is concerned with sharing the fruits of research with the public. "Archaeology is a small discipline compared to other sciences," explains Watters. "As an archaeologist, you can study humans anywhere they have lived -- and in the prehistoric era they have lived everywhere except Antarctica. It’s a wide open field." 

To find out more about anthropological research at Carnegie Museum of Natural History check out the museum’s website at www.carnegiemuseums.org.

Roll Call for Camp Earth

If Punxsutawney Pete emerges from his hole on Groundhog Day, can summer camp be far behind? Well, yes, actually...but it’s not too early to remind you that spaces in the museum’s popular Camp Earth go fast. Make a date with yourself to register your children—early—in the camp of their choice. This summer’s camp will run from June 12 to August 18, with pre- and post-camp sessions available. For a camp brochure, call (412) 622-3288.


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