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Breathing Room: A New Special Exhibits Gallery

 

The new Special Exhibits Gallery for traveling shows heralds a new era for bringing blockbuster traveling exhibits to Carnegie Museum of Natural History and to Pittsburgh.

 

A large, 8,000-square-foot gallery on the third floor of the museum has been transformed into a highly flexible space with the latest in lighting and climate- control systems. This Special Exhibits Gallery will be the home for major traveling shows that demand the highest environmental standards, and will be a destination for visitors who want to see the latest museum exhibits.

 

In the past the museum has suffered from the lack of a large, well-equipped space for traveling exhibits. The recent exhibit Africa, on tour from the Field Museum in Chicago, had to be divided into parts--the humidity and temperature-sensitive material in a smaller display area, and other materials in a second area. Many major exhibits with ethnographic materials require space where the total humidity range is limited to a few percentage points and the temperature fluctuation is no more than a few degrees. One such exhibit the museum could not bring to Pittsburgh last year was called Chocolate--the whole history of the delectable subject from the bean to its billion-dollar products.

 

Beyond the state-of-the art humidity and temperature controls, the new gallery has a carpet-tile system with pre-wired electrical circuits that allows flexibility of exhibit installation. The decorative base around the walls conceals electrical lines and compressed air lines, especially important to robotics displays. Twenty movable walls, each 10 x 10 feet, permit different configurations for exhibits.

 

The designer of the space, Verner Johnson Associates, has turned the top-rear floor of the museum, with its closed off skylights and iron-fenced air well, into highly flexible contemporary space. This was done without changing the museum's traditional ambience of the existing square columns and high ceilings.

 

The new gallery is also the first sign of change in a long-range plan that allows for the expansion of Dinosaur Hall on the first and second levels, where the museum plans to develop the premier Dinosaur exhibits in the country.

 

The new gallery opens with Passages, featuring photos of African rites of passage. The gallery will house its first full-scale exhibit with Machu Picchu in October of 2003.

 

African Rites of Passage

Passages, May 31 - August 24

 

By a recent count, the continent of Africa comprises some 1,300 cultures. Some of them number millions of people, some only a few families; some are thriving, while others are in danger of disappearing, the victims of acculturation or, in extreme cases, genocide. This diversity--and the dangers to it--is little known outside of Africa. Photographers Carol Beckwith and Angela Fisher highlight both subjects in Passages, an exhibit that chronicles the religious customs of African peoples through stunning images that illustrate the enduring power of traditional beliefs.

 

Among the images in the exhibition are coming-of-age ceremonies for Maasai boys in Kenya and Krobo girls in Ghana; an extraordinary stick fight for brides among the Surma of southwestern Ethiopia; and wedding adornment for Himba brides in northwestern Nambia.

 

Garden Themes & Birdhouse Dreams IV

May 16, 18, and 23 Powdermill Nature Reserve

 

The annual spring benefit for Powdermill Nature Reserve, now in its sixth season, is a success story in the Ligonier area.

 

Each year local artists create delightfully whimsical or utilitarian designs of birdhouses or garden ornaments that are auctioned off to benefit the programs of Powdermill Nature Reserve. Last year the auction earned $38,000 for Powdermill, a significant sum for this regional educational center and research station. Powdermill has been able to upgrade its technology for educational presentations, and expand its parking with an area that showcases environmentally sensitive design.

 

The creative birdhouses and ornaments will be on display at the Ligonier Library's Caldwell Gallery starting on Friday, May 16. In appreciation for all the people who participate, the Library will hold an artist's reception on May 18 from 4 to 6 p.m. There are different awards for entries in the adult and junior groups, and this year a "Founders Award" of $500 will be presented to the favorite entry selected by H and Pat Childs of G Squared Gallery in Ligonier. The Childs started the benefit in 1997.

 

On Friday, May 23, the entries will be moved to Powdermill for an auction that evening. It is an evening of fun and refreshments. Advance reservations of $30 per person are required, which includes dinner, entertainment, and children's activities.

 

Artists can register online or at the Ligonier Valley Chamber of Commerce, or download fax registrations from the benefit's website at http://www.birdhousedreams.com. Registration is mandatory and must be received no later than May 15. For more information, call education director Theresa Rohall at 724.593.6105, or email: info@birdhousedreams.com.

 

Spring at Powdermill

June 611, Powdermill Nature Reserve

 

Powdermill Nature Reserve will host the second Bioforay to study the species that live in a selected area of the nature reserve. A bioforay is more scientifically focussed than a "Bioblitz," which simply counts and identifies as many different species in a large are as is possible within a given time frame. The bioforay selects certain taxa or multiple groups of living things, and after surveying their locations within narrowly defined areas, allows for speculation about the relationship of one life form to another. For example, if land snails and craneflies are both plentiful in an area of several meters, a scientist can analyze the common environmental factors that attract them. Do they like a certain plant? Do they depend in some way upon each other?

 

Tim Pearce, Curator of Mollusks and an expert on gastropods, says this is the kind of science that excites him. Many "avocational naturalists"--who used to be called, respectfully, "amateurs," because they loved the subject but were not paid--feel the same way. It's the fascinating web of life that intrigues the scientific imagination, and not just the statistics of how many species are found in a study area. Field studies will be conducted by museum curators and staff, as well as by scientists from area universities.

 

The public is invited to the Florence Nimick Center at Powdermill free of charge during the Bioforay, but avocational naturalists who want to work in the field alongside the scientists must register and pay a fee. The field days for research are Saturday, June 7, and Monday through Wednesday, June 9-11. Sunday, June 8, is a workshop day with public programs.

 

For more information, call 724.593.6105.

 

2002 Carnegie Mineralogical Award

 

The winner of this prestigious annual award for 2002 is Dr. Terry C. Wallace, Jr., professor of Geosciences and Curator of the University of Arizona Mineral Museum. Considered the foremost expert on silver and silver minerals in the United States, Dr. Wallace "is also very active in the professional and lay mineral communities," says Marc Wilson, head of the Section of Minerals and Gems at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. The award was presented by Director Bill DeWalt of Carnegie Museum of Natural History at the Tucson Gem and Mineral show on February 15. curator of the University of Arizona Mineral Museum, Wallace changed a traditional specimen-based university museum into an active institution with a broad educational mission. He not only developed the collection, but attracted amateur collectors and mineralogists, and involved the kindergarten through high school educational community in Tucson.

 

The Carnegie Mineralogical Award was established in 1987 through the support of the Hillman Foundation, and is now recognized as a premier award for outstanding service in mineralogical preservation, conservation and education.

 

 

 

 

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