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‘In the Dark’ Exhibit Opens at Western Heritage Museum

‘In the Dark’ Exhibit Opens at Western Heritage Museum photo 1/12/2018 4:35:49 p.m. - Hobbs, NM.  

The Western Heritage Museum and Lea County Cowboy Hall of Famewill reveal what thrives beneath the soil, under the sea, in the shadows of night, and within other dark environments in the special exhibition In the Dark, on view January 18 through May 13, 2018. A special opening night reception takes place Thursday, January 18 from 5:30pm until 7:30pm. The event is free to the public.

In the Dark features three 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.

“This exhibition gives visitors a glimpse into worlds that they will never see with their own eyes,” said Dr. Darrell Beauchamp, executive director of the museum. “The ecosystems and animals that exist in the absence of light are truly incredible, and their adaptations are the basis of modern technology that allows humans to function in darkness.”

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. 

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.

In the Dark is extremely interactive, and families will find lots of fun and educational activities,” Beauchamp said. “I imagine visitors will really enjoy the interactives, like the pit viper game, bat echolocation, and my personal favorite, flashers of the night – which is the firefly matching test.”

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

For more information, contact Dr. Darrell Beauchamp at the Western Heritage Museum: dbeauchamp@nmjc.edu or 575-492-2678

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