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Library exhibit tackles Earth’s mysteries

Fri., June 27, 2014

“Discover Earth,” an interactive exhibit at the downtown library, is designed to pique questions about the world around us.

What happened when a massive dust storm hit Phoenix? Why do zebras wear stripes? Why might someone walking around in minus-70 degree temperatures wear giant air-filled “bunny boots”?

The exhibit – a traveling collection of personal stories, graphics, videos, animations, artifacts, animal specimens and simulation-based games – provides some answers. But ultimately, its goal is to prompt more questions in a setting designed to provide answers, said Eva Silverstone, the communications manager for the Spokane Public Library system.

“It’s museum quality. It’s pretty good stuff,” she said. “And it’s free, because it’s in the library.”

The exhibit is set up mostly on the library’s third level.

Eight touch-screen displays offer games and activities. One puts the player in the role of a mayor who has to decide where to build a new hospital in relation to a fault line. Another shows dramatic videos of a dust storm overtaking Phoenix, golf-ball-size hail hitting the ground, a blizzard whiting out a road and other forms of “wild weather.” Another lets viewers explore an in-depth comparison of the Arctic and the Antarctic.

Animal specimens invite scrutiny and sometimes touch. A sample of bison fur and a rubber cast of the inside of a caribou hoof help illustrate how animals adapt to cold. An Eastern yellow-bellied racer snake is featured for the ridges over its eyes, which provide shade so the snake can hunt during the day. There’s a pair of snow goose feet, minus the snow goose; the birds can constrict blood flow to their legs and feet, allowing their bodies to stay warm while they paddle in cold water.

The Magic Planet is an 18-inch, interactive, light-up Earth loaded with visualizations of earthquakes, plate tectonics, changing sea ice and other global systems.

The traveling exhibit is the “sister” exhibit to the “Discover Tech” exhibit at the library last summer. “Discover Earth” is part of the STAR Library Education Network led by a program of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Adrian Rogers

When: Regular library hours through Aug. 31

Where: Downtown library, 906 W. Main Ave.

Admission: Free


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