The Universe Unfolding

The exhibit itself was organized in different sections very defined by subject matter. The first part was thematically titled The Universe Unfolding. It provided a breathtaking view of the Universe unfolding inspired by discoveries in the field of astronomy. It displayed and explained the tools that make these leaps in knowledge possible, the space missions that give us a closer look at things around. Antique astronomical instruments greeted visitors, as well as an ororer, an early three-dimensional model of the solar system. A rare book by Christian Huygens, a dutch physicist and astronomer who lived between 1629 and 1695 and with the help of astronomical instruments he constucted himself was the first to discover the rings around Saturn. He was also the first to discover the Orion Nebula, and was the first to hypothesize that stars were other very distant suns. He broke ground in mechanics and optics with his wave theory. So this rare book was entitled something like, On the conjecture concerning the existence of life on other planets, etc. etc. , which to my great dismay and shame was stolen from the exhibit and never recovered. This was by far the worst thing that happened in my entire career at Strange, Strange World.

Having looked briefly at the past, visitors were then led into the present and the future. A four foot model of Skylab stood alone in its eight foot case on a frosted glass floor with its own light show underneath: green, red, blue, yellow lights alternating with a pulsation that followed the music of Jean-Michel Jarre’s Space, an upbeat space music that provided an emotional liftoff for the tour. Questions were raised concerning the high energy radiation at the center of our own galaxy, those ever-fascinating black holes, mysterious beginnings and ultimate ends. Everything from microscopic collisions to macroscopic cataclysms, including a few outrageous theories.

Exhibits came from a wide variety of sources: NASA (which provided many different models relating to different space programs, and coming from different NASA facilities, Goddard Space Flight Center, Ames Research Center...), the Anglo-Australian Observatory which had some of the most exquisite galactic photographs ever seen, the National Research Council of Canada, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Columbia University, and the MacDonald-Stewart Foundation...

A film from Jet Propulsion Laboratories highlighted the Voyager display, and to top this all off, the award-winning film entitled “Universe” was presented continuously. With the help of a very efficient audio-visual department headed by Marcel Seguin, Strange, Strange World was able to present, over the years, some very interesting films including the dinosaur excerpt from Fantasia, War of the Worlds, and Creature from the Black Lagoon among many others.

The atmosphere that we wished to inspire was one of exuberance for life, exploration of all kinds, and the universe. Visitors were invited to envisage the awesome scale of the Universe, the unknown drama being played out, and the uniqueness of Man’s place in it. At least for the moment! It was all about the idea that if you look up at the sky, you can see forever...
-- Linda Corriveau


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