From July 2014 until May of this year, I worked as a Program Interpreter. I considered myself lucky to get to wander the Museum’s spaces every day, answering questions and teaching school programs. I felt then, as I still do now, that I could work here for years and continue to discover new things about this complex structure.
The Museum is a marvel of engineering, with 5,400 tonnes of steel, 35,000 tonnes of concrete and more than 175,000 pieces of limestone, basalt and alabaster. But what brings it all to life for me are the over 1,300 pieces of glass that lets so much light in to play among the steel and the stones. Architect Antoine Predock envisioned the building as a journey from darkness to light, and it’s a journey I take every time I walk the alabaster ramps that connect the Museum’s galleries. When you are searching for light, you can discover surprising things.
The look and mood of the Museum varies in small ways from morning until night, with an alternation in weather, or a transition of season. These changes make endless opportunities to look at spaces from different angles, pick a favourite viewpoint, and search for fossils. My curiosity remains constant, piqued by visitor observations and anecdotes of staff members who have had their hand in making this museum grow.
I am most intrigued by how the light coming through the windows interacts with the building. Shadows in geometric patterns are left on walls and floors as the light weaves around the steel. The abundance of glass and intersecting angles means there are numerous prisms where light can be dispersed in a spectrum of colours, leaving tiny rainbows to be spotted all over the place.
The best part is that these rainbows tend to sneak up on you, quickly appearing at your feet or on the wall. The tough part is capturing the fleeting glow before it disappears.
It was a young visitor on my tour who first made me notice how many occur and turned me into a resident rainbow hunter. After pointing to a rainbow appearing over the rocks in the Garden of Contemplation, we started to see them on different levels throughout the morning tour.
Since then I casually notice them throughout my day, and take a moment to figure out where exactly the path of light is coming from. This part of the hunt I like to share with a co-worker or passerby who is pulled into my burst of amusement.
These quiet rows of colours are often overlooked, but add a spot of brightness to my day. As someone who spends a lot of time in this building, I enjoy taking a moment to stop and focus on what the beam of light is highlighting. Often it is a material, a texture, or a feature of a space I would have passed by without looking.
Now it’s both a challenge and delight to come across these in my week. And if you ever happen to pass by an interpreter glancing at the floor or into the windows above, know that the game is afoot.