Open September 27, 2014 - January 4, 2015
The dark—a place of mystery. Sometimes scary, but always intriguing, darkness beckons exploration and represents the unknown.
In The Dark explores the plants and animals that live in ecosystems like caves, the deep sea, the forest at night, and underneath the ground. In the Dark features five immersive zones, enabling visitors to see and experience some of these dark and largely unseen worlds, including the ways people have reacted to darkness throughout history. Each diorama uses mechanical displays, life-size animal models and informational panels to surround visitors with the sights, sounds, smells and sensations of several dark ecosystems including:
The Darkness of Night
Visitors encounter animals that dwell in two different environments as darkness falls in The Darkness of Night component of the exhibition: a forest in the Great Smoky Mountains, the amidst a habitat in the Sonoran Desert. Visitors walk through the mountainous forest and witness how bobcats, barred owls, spotted skunks, flying squirrels and salamanders forage for meals. They also see how bats feed on night-blooming cacti in the Sonoran Desert.
Darkness within the Soil
Next the exhibition reveals what lurks below the soil as visitors learn about the animals that thrive just beneath the Earth’s surface. Here, the relationships among the world’s complex underground ecosystems as well as the plants, animals and humans living above ground are emphasized. Visitors will get a look at what dwells below the soil in a typical backyard with a life-size diorama featuring a cross-section of earth that reveals moles, cicadas, bumblebees, worms, millipedes, slugs and other animals that call the soil “home.”
Darkness Deep within Caves
As visitors examine open and closed cave systems, they learn the natural processes that form each type of cave and the unique organisms found inside. The dioramas include a walk-through recreation of a limestone solution cave and a closed ecosystem found in Romania’s Movile cave. Interactive elements explore animal adaptations and cavern environments, such as the cave cricket’s fine hair-like structures, called mechanoreceptors, which collect information about its dark environment. “Be a Bat” is a computer “cave maze” where visitors rely on sounds to find their way out of a simulated cave like their small, winged mammal counterparts.
Darkness of the Deep Sea
This area highlights two deep sea environments – a deep sea vent field and a section of the open deep sea and compares their two divers ecosystems, the organisms that live in each and the unique survival habits of each creature.
Darkness and Humans
The Darkness and Humans area of In the Dark tells past and present human interactions with dark environments and the resulting effect of these ecosystems. Humans have found ways to adapt to the total lack of light, including incredible adaptations for the blind, and also how to bring light into the dark world. Stories and folklore reveal cultural interpretations of night and darkness, while modern technology such as sonar, radar and image enhancers reveal how humans mimic the adaptations of animals like dolphins, bats and owls.