Spoilers Ahead: “Easter Eggs” in Becoming Weatherwise
As a member of the exhibitions team at the APS, I get the privilege of seeing these public-facing works go from idea to execution. But, being on the education side of the table, I often do not get to spend too much time with the objects that will be on display until the exhibitions open. It usually takes until the end of the first month for me to feel like I really know the objects and can identify my favorites. Every year, some of those objects end up being a favorite or a tour highlight because they hold great surprises or “Easter eggs.” Becoming Weatherwise, the current exhibition, holds a good number of these surprises and I will share some here. Consider this your warning! There are spoilers ahead! (Don’t worry, though. I have decided to not include photos so that you have to visit the exhibition to find these, and others, for yourself!)
Easter egg #1
A banjo barometer resides in the exhibition’s introductory section. This whimsically shaped object consists of a thermometer, barometer, and hygrometer. When you get close to the thermometer portion, you notice helpful markings along with the temperatures–two of which have to do with the human body: blood heat and fever! Thought provoking additions that you might miss if you speed by it!
Easter egg #2
There is a large portrait of Alexander von Humboldt in the exhibition’s first section. This section details contrasting visions of climate, weather, and human impact on the two during the Enlightenment. Humboldt is a crucial figure in that story. If you are able to make it past Humboldt’s gaze (with those pensive green eyes of his), you can see a thermometer in the background! Yes, Humboldt’s body of work speaks for itself in terms of being a good fit for the exhibition. However, seeing this thermometer in the portrait’s background really does remind the viewer of how critical weather data was (and still is).
Easter egg #3
Along the exhibition’s back wall, in a section about collaboration, sits an unassuming notebook. At this point in the museum gallery, you are pretty used to seeing manuscript materials or books, so it might be tempting to breeze by it. If you slow down and read through the list of names on the notebook’s left-hand side, though, you will be greatly rewarded! Those listed all provided weather data to the meteorologist at the Smithsonian Institution (a different story for a different time). Among those names are some heavy-hitters in American history and the history of science. The Easter egg here is Henry David Thoroeu sending weather data from Massachusetts! What a fun surprise and reward for close- and slow-looking at objects.
Of course, there are plenty of other Easter eggs in the exhibition, but I do not want to spoil them all for you just yet. Take this as a lesson in the importance of slowing down when you visit a museum. If you are in a time crunch though, always feel free to ask those working in the gallery! We have the pleasure of spending plenty of time in those spaces and love sharing discoveries. Be sure to visit Becoming Weatherwise and find some surprises of your own or to ask our Museum Guides about their favorites!