Exhibition: Remains and Traces of our Stars and Ancestors
Barcelona, 17 October 2002
The Science Museum of ”la Caixa” Foundation is embarking upon a new phase in its provisional quarters in the former ”la Caixa” Foundation Cultural Centre at Passeig de Sant Joan, 108, in Barcelona, while awaiting completion of the building work on the new Science Museum. The schedule of these provisional quarters includes a new exhibition, Remains and Traces of our Stars and Ancestors, a new series of talks and seminars in which prestigious specialists will be analysing various subjects of current interest in the scientific world. Schools and colleges can also take part in the new range of teaching activities for the 2002-2003 academic year.
What can be deduced from a trail over eight metres long, with a fossil at the end of it? Or the skeleton of the Protoceratops dinosaur in huddled position dating from the Late Cretaceous in Mongolia? Are some remains of silex found in the desert simply the result of coincidence or are they due to some form of activity? The exhibition Remains and Traces shows pieces with stories behind them, often surprising stories, which can be deduced by following the trails to be found in the objects themselves.
Fossils of fish with their last meal, a meteorite that fell in Russia in 1947, fossilised traces… and remains of human activity are some of the items making up the exhibition. One innovative feature of the exhibition is that the stories that lay hidden behind the objects are not told through written language but rather by means of a black-and-white comic strip. The last strip, in colour this time, relates to each of the pieces on exhibition.
The 19 objects exhibited rocks, fossils and archaeological items come under different headings in the evolution of matter. Hence we have live matter which looks at the evolution of life, civilised matter, in which man’s action plays a part, and inert matter, based on the fundamental laws of nature.
Buried alive? Protoceratops andrewsi was a small dinosaur which lived in Mongolia at the end of the Cretaceous, approximately 75 million years ago. The huddled position in which it was found is associated with an attempt at protecting itself from a suspected sandstorm which caused its death.
Journey beyond Death recounts what happened to an ammonite (swimming sea animal) after its death. The long, regular trail of this item would suggest that it was not produced by the ammonite swimming close to the sea bed, but rather by the currents of water dragging along the external calcareous mollusc shell following the animal’s death.
Big-Little Fish Chokes on Little-Big Fish: exceptional state of preservation of a fossil showing a predatory fish swallowing its prey. What happened to them? Well, quite possibly the prey was too big, the predator was unable to swallow it down and both fish died and fell to the bottom of the lake they lived in. Furthermore, this fossil also has a third feature: a small piece of fossilised excrement. How come it was found in perfect condition? Everything would seem to indicate that once they had died the two fish were buried rapidly, that there were no carrion feeders and that there was little bacterial activity, possibly because it was the bottom of a lake without oxygen.
Realism, symbolism and abstraction in a single exhibit. The reproduction of engravings dating from 5,000 years ago shows some rhinoceros accompanied by the symbol of the female sex organs and a spiral, which in many cultures symbolises fertility and continuation of the species. Another work from the exhibition depicts a study of the movement of a gazelle.
Cuneiform writing is the oldest form of writing known, and it arose on the banks of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates some 5,000 years ago. The terracotta cylinder from ancient Mesopotamia, dated to 1850 BC, contains a declaration by King Sim-iddinam about the dredging of the River Tigris in order to provide clean water for his people.
The reproduction of a stone-fashioning workshop from the Sahara desert is the last of the exhibits about human action. From the types of tools and their shapes the visitor can deduce that we have here a primitive workshop where human beings used to make their tools 5,000 years ago.
A 15-kilo rock made basically of iron is the fragment from a meteorite which visitors can also see. It fell in Russia on 12 February 1947 at 10.38 a.m. Its descent showed as a hail of fireballs over the dense woods of the Sikhote-Alin mountains. Meteorites melt partially when they come into contact with the atmosphere, and as they pass through it they break into fragments under the forces of abrasion. It is one of these meteorite fragments, with the relief of one of its sides showing the effects of the partial fusion, which can be seen in the exhibition.
PROVISIONAL QUARTERS FOR THE SCIENCE MUSEUM
It is now 21 years since the ”la Caixa” Foundation Science Museum opened its doors to the public with the objectives of stimulating scientific knowledge and direct participation of visitors and of becoming a place where the scientific community and the citizens could come together. With the passing of time, however, increased numbers of visitors, extension of the museum’s activities and the need to adapt to the new technologies have made it necessary to build a new museum. That is why the museum’s activities will continue at its provisional quarters at Passeig de Sant Joan, 108, in Barcelona, where it will remain until the beginning of 2004, the date set for completion of building work on the new museum.
A new exhibition called Remains and Traces of our Stars and Ancestors, the organisation of a meeting which, under the coordination of the lecturer Juan Carlos Izpisúa, will be bring together some of the leading researchers into parent cells and cloning, the Science and Cinema on Mondays cycle and the museum’s evening talks are some of the activities in the schedule starting for this transitional phase. Family groups can also take part in the activities scheduled with a view to having young children and adults alike take their first steps in knowledge of the Universe as they travel through the constellations and planets of the solar system at the Bubble Planetarium, or discovering how a lightning conductor or electrical insulators work, in the electrostatics workshop.
So that visitors can follow the progress of the building work, an area has been set up in the provisional quarters where they can see models and graphic material showing the day-to-day work on the new museum of the future. And a website, at www.noumuseudelaciencia.com, shows what the Science Museum is preparing for its new phase. Every two months, people connecting to the Web can take part in the interactive game Breaking News on the New Museum, with a total of eight riddles which, once solved, will allow visitors to find out about the various parts of the content of the new museum.
Over the 2002-2003 academic year, the Science Museum will be offering a broad range of educational activities. Among the most outstanding is the new cycle of talks for secondary school pupils, Mornings at the Museum. Specialists in the field of the sciences will enter into discussion and debate with the pupils for the purpose of encouraging dialogue and fostering increased knowledge. The cycle of Educational talks on science will once again be looking at themes of current scientific interest, such as Bioethics and Education. Experiencing what the world of the palaeontologist is like, learning about electrical phenomena or understanding how a lightning conductor works are just some of the experiments which can be carried out in the ten workshops scheduled for this academic year. Due to the success of the first scientific literature for schools competition, Let’s write science stories, in November the Science Museum will be issuing the rules for the second competition so that interested schools can take part in this new edition.
Science Museum of ”la Caixa” Foundation
Provisional quarters: Pg. de Sant Joan, 108. 08037 Barcelona
Opening hours: Mondays to Fridays, 9:30 a.m. 8 p.m.
Saturdays: 10:30 a.m. 7:30 p.m. Sundays: 10:30 a.m. 2:30 p.m.