New Museum of Natural History Exhibit Tests — and Enhances — Your Senses

By Carol Tannenhauser

Our Senses: An Immersive Experience is opening at the American Museum of Natural History on November 20th.

The reactions of sixth graders from the Dual Language Middle School on West 77th Street, who attended Tuesday’s press preview, were highly favorable.

“Cool…interesting…I’m kind of dizzy…whoa…I don’t understand how anybody could see that dress as black and blue; it’s gold and white…this one smells so good…they’re yellow and blue, no, wait, they’re the same…”

What’s going on?

“A series of 11 funhouse-like galleries dare visitors to rely on their senses — and then reveal how and why what we perceive is not all, or exactly, what’s actually occurring around us,” a release from the Museum explains.

“The illusions aren’t there to simply ‘wow’ you,” Curator Rob DeSalle (below) said. “They’re there to get you to realize that you’re taking this information into your brain, integrating it, and creating a perception.”

“It’s a little teaser about reality,” noted Lauri Halderman, Vice President for Exhibition at the Museum. “What is really on the walls: plants or fish and bears? The answer is, it depends. In this room, it depends on what lights we shine on the walls. In the next room, you’ll understand it also depends on what species you are. You’ll get to see how butterflies and bees see flowers, which is different from us, because we don’t see any ultraviolet, and you’ll get to hunt like a snake, using infrared vision.”

Highly interactive and experiential, with lots of buttons to press, dials to turn, and perceptions to test, this is a child’s paradise — and pretty cool for parents and other people, too.

Preview days for members begin November 17th. The exhibition website is here.

Photos by Carol Tannenhauser.

NEWS | 3 comments | permalink
    1. ScooterStan says:

      Re: “this is a child’s paradise — and pretty cool for parents and other people, too.”

      Attenzione all NIMBYs and “Friends of Teddy Roosevelt Park”:
      The above is why the proposed A.M.N.H. Science Center is such an important idea…because kids are fascinated by science when presented appropriately.

      Who knows how many potential Jonas Salk’s will be encouraged by the museum’s proposed addition.

      That will be the Science Center’s job, a task many, many times more important than preserving a little piece of your oh-so-precious private little park, especially when you’ve got all of Central Park just a block away.

    2. ny10023 says:

      for what it’s worth

      that damn dress is black & blue

    3. Penny says:

      I was lucky enough to get a preview of this exhibition and it is super fun–especially the “smell” part. Apparently disorienting room pictured above affects some people and not others–partially based on genetic disposition. And yes, this is why the museum expansion is important. This exhibition is interactive and particularly “eye opening” for kids who are just starting to explore the idea that you can see the world in different ways. The addition of the new space will give them many more opportunities to delight and inspire their youngest (and arguably their most important) audience.