This Museum is Designed to Inspire Awe and Wonder

The museum of the future could be an empty room with limitless possibilities.

Jul 11, 2023
This Museum is Designed to Inspire Awe and Wonder | The museum of the future could be an empty room with limitless possibilities.

Prepare to be amazed by a sculptured canyon right in the heart of New York City. The Richard Gilder Center for Science, Education, and Innovation, the new wing of the American Museum of Natural History, is a marvel designed to inspire awe, curiosity, and wonder in the hearts of all who step inside.

At the center of this architectural masterpiece lies a dream-like room with gently curving walls that reach several stories high. This textured wonderland is the focal point of the Gilder Center, explained The Smithsonian Magazine, featuring innovative displays, captivating exhibits, and even live insects. Bridges lead visitors from the canyon-like atrium to galleries, and through the cavernous gaps, one can catch glimpses reminiscent of cave entrances.

The Gilder Center project, announced in 2014, has been a nine-year journey, bringing it to life, explains a museum press release. Studio Gang, an architecture firm headquartered in Chicago, envisioned the 230,000-square-foot addition to resemble rocks sculpted by the elements over time.

The museum's extraordinary design pays homage to the marvels of the planet. The foyer was created with an ingenious technique known as shotcrete, which involves spraying concrete at high speed through a hose, to recreate the magnificent walls of a canyon within the atrium

“The Gilder Center is designed to invite exploration and discovery that not only embodies the spirit of science but also celebrates our shared human experience,”  Jeanne Gang, the founding principal and partner of Studio Gang said in the press release. “It aims to engage people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities, inviting them to embark on an exciting journey of learning about the wonders of the natural world.”

Inside the museum
The Gilder Center is an extension of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, according to the museum’s press release.

Three floors of exhibits showcase over 3,000 objects, representing various fields of study such as zoology, paleontology, geology, anthropology, and archaeology. From dinosaur tracks to astronomical instruments, antlers to pottery, the displays span a diverse range of materials. 

Digital exhibits offer insights into how scientists analyze different types of collections and introduce the Museum's researchers. Glass-paneled exhibits, including those in the Macaulay Family Foundation Collection Galleries, provide glimpses into working collection areas behind the scenes. Additionally, the second floor houses the new Lepidoptera facility, which stores a vast collection of scientific specimens, visible to visitors.

On the first floor, along the north side of the building, the Solomon Family Insectarium spans 5,000 square feet and is dedicated to showcasing the incredible diversity and importance of insects. With live insects, digital exhibits, models, and pinned specimens, the Insectarium offers a captivating exploration of insects' vital functions in ecosystems, their evolution, and their influence on our species. Oversized models of honeybees and a massive resin model of a beehive add to the immersive experience

Museum visitors can closely examine pinned specimens, observe living insects, and learn about insects in various ecosystems through touch screens. The sound gallery envelops visitors with the unique "music" created by Central Park's insects and their vibrations.

“The new insectarium addresses a lack in the museum’s exhibitions for the last 50 years: nothing devoted to insects, the most diverse life forms on Earth, absolutely critical to so many ecosystems,” James Carpenter, curator of invertebrate zoology at the museum, told the New York Post.

The second floor houses the Davis Family Butterfly Vivarium, according to the press release. Covering 2,500 square feet, this vivarium allows visitors to interact with up to 1,000 free-flying butterflies across various micro-environments. The vivarium also offers a view into the pupae incubator, where visitors can witness the butterfly life cycle and perhaps even witness a butterfly emerging. Staff assistance and digital microscopes enhance the experience.

The herald of future museums?
Invisible Worlds, an extraordinary immersive experience that combines science and art in a 360-degree presentation, is located on the third floor.. The exhibit, according to the press release, highlights the interconnectedness of all life, from DNA segments to ecosystems, food webs, and communication at the cellular level. 

Visitors are drawn into a custom-designed oval space through mesmerizing films and projections. Interestingly, as a people move within the space, their own actions influence the living networks projected around them, making them active participants in the story.

According to Fast Company, the age of stuffy, unchanging exhibitions is over; the future of museums could be a bare room capable of transporting visitors anywhere through visual stimulation and immersion. 

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An award-winning poet and author, Miriam is a freelance writer with a passion for telling stories. When she’s not writing, Miriam loves to read, cook, and take long walks.