On May 15 when the Houston Museum of Natural Science becomes the first major museum in the city to reopen, they’ll also offer visitors a very special and awe-inspiring welcome back, the giant installation Gaia – Earth by Luke Jerram.
The 23-foot-in-diameter sculpture replica of the Earth by artist Luke Jerram, will float above the Alfred C. Glassell Hall giving visitors a 360 degree spectacular gaze on our fragile, island home.
Jerram uses 120dpi detailed NASA imagery of the Earth’s surface to give museum goers a simulated, artistic version of the Overview Effect, that shift in perspective astronauts sometimes discover when viewing the Earth from space. In a statement about the installation, HMNS vice president of astronomy, Dr. Carolyn Sumners, describes this shift as a relatively new human experience.
“After the Apollo astronauts saw the Earth from space, Archibald Macleish produced a quote that has stuck with me for 50 years, ‘To see the Earth as it truly is, small and blue and beautiful in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the Earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the eternal cold — brothers who know now they are truly brothers,’” Sumners explains. “Perhaps it is most important now as we unveil our Earth. We have country lines on our column maps, but there are no lines on our globe. It’s sad that we have had to learn this lesson again from a tiny virus.”
Jerram’s art is not new to Texas or the HMNS. His Moon was an art meets science smash hit with museum-goers when it debuted a little over a year ago.
“I was amazed and delighted that my Museum of the Moon artwork has been so popular. I’m fully aware that 4 million members of the public haven’t been coming to see an artwork by ‘Luke Jerram’ but rather ‘the Moon’; an object of universal appeal and cultural significance,” said Jerram in a statement about the installation.
“With this Gaia Earth artwork, I’m interested in just how different the experience and interpretation is. For our entire human existence we have been gazing up at the moon and projecting all our hopes, dreams and wishes up there. Whereas it was only in 1968 that we were able to [first] see our planet floating in space.”
As CultureMap previously reported, the HMNS will reopen May 15 under Gov. Greg Abbott’s 25-percent capacity ruling and with a sweeping set of health and safety measures. Some of the new protocols include requiring face masks for the visiting public, creating separate entrances and exits, utilizing newly installed plexi-glass screens at visitor, information, and sales desks, frequent environmental cleaning and monitoring public spaces to facilitate social distancing.
Gaia – Earth by Luke Jerram will remain on view May 15 through June 30 and is included with admission to the permanent exhibit halls.