Stepping into the Calvert gallery of the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center, visitors are transported into a different world, where creatures dwell in the darkness.
The In the Dark exhibit focuses on creatures that thrive during the night or in the deepest parts of the ocean. There are several hands-on activities for children to learn about animals, including cave dwelling creatures, bats, fish and animals living beneath the dirt and grass, such as moles and earthworms.
The first thing one might notice, other than the cricket sounds, when they step inside is the large set up with leaves, rocks and a tree truck, where guests can read about what lives in the forest.
“We have a variety of items,” KYGMC Director CJ Hunter said. “One is a forest and what animals might live there, what plants might be there. You can walk around it and see some things in plain sight, but there are a lot of things that are camouflaged. The first thing you notice when you come in is the sounds of the crickets. We tried to create the feeling of being in a forest with the lightening and the sounds.”
On the other side of the room is a bat station. Stepping in front of the large bat head will trigger its senses. The bat will set off off a clicking sound until its sight is clear.
The bat is also interactive, with a hole in the back where children can step inside to get a sense of what it feels like to be a bat. Books about bats and an interactive activity sit behind the bat head, so children can take the time to learn more about them.
Next to the bat’s head is a cave set. Before going inside, children are asked to done hard hats and other equipment.
“When kids come in, they can put on some costumes,” Hunter said. “We’re trying to teach the kids to know what to do when they go into a cave; make sure you have your lights, your gear and make sure people know where you are. It’s just another way we can effectively teach safety.”
Some of the other parts of the exhibit include interactive, educational games children can play to learn about the animals. In one area, children can place their hands on a screen and feel a vibration. On the screen next to them, they can guess what is causing the vibration. Some of the choices include a lawn mower, mole, earthworm or an earthquake.
There are several other activities and things to see inside the changing gallery, but that is not the only place to learn about what lives in the darkness. There is information in the atrium, both downstairs and on the second floor landing, about the exhibit.
Among the parts of the exhibit in the atrium is an enclosed box where visitors can step inside and try to complete a puzzle in darkness. Once the door is closed, it is impossible to see, meaning visitors have to feel their way around the puzzle until it is completed. On the outside, people can watch what is happening on a small screen.
“A lot of the activities are interactive,” Hunter said. “Some are on computer. Students can come in here, adults can come here and everyone can learn about the animals and use the activities.”
Hunter said the exhibit is open from 10 a.m. to noon and from 1-3:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday until Sept. 15.
“We have to keep people in here to assist during the exhibit,” he said. “Tandy Nash, our education coordinator has developed a curriculum to go with this exhibit for tour groups. We are already taking reservations for class tours in August and September.”
The exhibit is a nationally traveled exhibit, that was most recently in Arizona, according to Hunter.
“It’s probably the largest, or one of the largest, traveling exhibits we’ve had here,” he said.