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September 25, 2012 | There’s no missing the latest addition to the Mesa Lab lobby. Enter through the front door, turn left, and you’re in the new Weather Gallery—a color-filled space packed with meteorological imagery and hands-on activities. Nearly all of the components are now in place, with an official opening slated for October (see below).
The new gallery is a quantum leap beyond the scattered exhibits that filled the space for years, according to Spark exhibits manager Becca Hatheway. “The old layout felt like a pinball machine,” she says. “It was added on to over the years and never had the opportunity to be planned and thought out.”
After an integrated exhibit on climate was added to the second floor in 2003, Spark planned the same approach to weather on the first floor once budgets allowed. Bond funding associated with ML building improvement made the gallery a reality.
The Weather Gallery softens the hard edges of the long ML hallway with curved panels and other “buildouts”—design features that help shape the exhibit space and root the visitor. “Some staff have told me that they feel embraced,” says Becca. The blue and purple panels are complemented by touches of orange that echo the 1970s-hued mural on the ML lobby’s north side.
The gallery is divided into five sections that flow into one another:
Each gallery has a hands-on exhibit, and four of the five also include touchscreen monitors that allow visitors to delve deeper. One touchscreen will allow people to compare a variety of cloud photos and descriptions to what they’re seeing through windows on the east side of the gallery.
Several of the lobby’s most popular elements over the years have been kept, including the iconic tornado exhibit. And Magic Planet, which displays full-globe visualizations, has been moved to a curtained closet beneath the main ML stairwell, where the darkness will boost its visual appeal.
In the adjoining alcove, Tell Your Weather Story allows visitors to describe and post their own experiences using paper and colored pencils. “I’m excited to have something participatory,” says Becca.
Launched two years ago by Becca’s predecessor, Linda Carbone, the weather gallery benefited from volunteers across the institution who participated in several advisory committees, worked on touchscreen interactives, and contributed photos and other content. EOL pitched in as well, contributing three types of anemometers for display. A Machine Shop team led by Jim Ranson transformed a 1990s prototype of the lobby’s classic make-a-microburst exhibit into an entirely new version. And with Dave Maddy at the helm, Maintenance staff installed several exhibit components, modified electrical outlets, and painted the now-gleaming space.
All staff are invited to join Spark and committee members in toasting the new gallery at a reception from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 10.