In The Dark

September 17-December 30, 2016

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The dark: a place of mystery. Sometimes scary, but always intriguing, darkness beckons exploration and represents the unknown. But it’s also a natural evolutionary selective pressure that has caused plants and animals to adapt to ecosystems like caves, the deep sea, the forest at night, and underneath the ground. In the Dark visitors will experience and explore these mysteries via electronic, mechanical and computer interactives, immersive dioramas, and lifelike models. Four immersive zones enable visitors to see and experience dark and largely unseen worlds. 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.

The Darkness of Night

Visitors encounter animals that dwell in two different environments in the Darkness of Night zone: a forest in the Great Smoky Mountains and the Sonoran Desert habitat. 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 about 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 to 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 and Humans

The Darkness and Humans zone explores 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.

In the Dark is a traveling exhibit produced by the Cincinnati Museum Center.

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