Museums | Exhibits | Facilities | Architecture | Educational and Cultural Institutions |

Restoring Earth

The Field Museum | Chicago, IL | 2016

The Restoring Earth exhibit at the Abbott Hall of Conservation explains how Field Museum scientists are providing the tools to conserve wilderness and protect the Earth’s biodiversity, all while improving local livelihoods and fostering human connections with nature.

What it Was

While most people know the Field as an educational institution, it is very much a research and scientific institution, as well. The Restoring Earth exhibit at the Abbott Hall of Conservation explains how Field Museum scientists are providing the tools to conserve wilderness and protect the Earth’s biodiversity, all while improving local livelihoods and fostering human connections with nature.

What We Did

For a memorable first impression, we used lighting to enhance and highlight “super graphics”, which are 15-foot tall images of microscopic organisms and objects. Large lampshades serve as precursors that allow visitors to understand the categories they are about to see. Upon entering the exhibit, a super graphic of grasses explains how the changing of color of these plants demonstrates the cycle of life. The first section describes how millions of acres of rainforest are being protected, while a three-screen theater tells the story of the Field Museum scientists’ involvement in this effort. Lighting within the theater is set up according to mood changes and scene changes. Water and green effects, along with timed lighting throughout the show helps tell the story and helps people find their seats, without interrupting the video. Throughout the exhibit, section information panels are backlit with a translucent panel, telling visitors what they are about to encounter, while sheer curtain walls with color changing lights let visitors know they are approaching a new section. Artifacts in the cases with light sensitivity issues had to be accounted for, such as headdresses with light-sensitive feathers. It proved particularly challenging for designers to light the super graphics while not interfering with artifacts. With sustainability in mind, this exhibit space was also the first fully LED-lit hall in the Field Museum.

Why it Worked t

Restoring Earth is a new and inspiring way for museums to communicate and educate visitors about active science and how their own scientists are making a difference on a global level. Large-scale super graphics and video displays allow visitors to become immersed in the exhibit, while lighting is used as differentiator of space.