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. Since prehistoric times, humans have sought to find utility in darkness, and have invented ways to acclimate to dark conditions.
In the Dark features 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.
- 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, and 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.
In the Dark is a traveling exhibit produced by the Cincinnati Museum Center and is sponsored by DuPont with additional support from Artisans’ Bank and CSC.