image of VR reconstruction
Home Contact

Installation - Earth Theater

The Earth Theater is a panoramic display at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. It seats sixty people, mostly within the 210-degree arc of its curved screen. The theater accommodates CaveUT/VRGL applications, currently the Virtual Egyptian Temple, the OviRapTour, and the Virtual Seneca Village, described below. They are not movies, but guided tours through a virtual space, where the presenter can move the display's viewpoint at will.

OvirapTour, shown in the title image, above, is a thematic extension of Carnegie MNH’s Dinosaurs in Their Time exhibition. Even at more than 18,500 square feet, the hall cannot hold all the stories the museum wanted to tell. One evolving topic is that of the connection between dinosaurs and birds. The new unnamed oviraptorsaur looks like an ostrich at first glance, and careful comparison shows it to be very similar. A thematic cornerstone of the physical exhibition is displaying animals and plants together only if they lived together in time and space; there was no place for a modern ostrich skeleton near the oviraptosaur. However, the virtual museum in OvirapTour places them side by side, and in other virtual rooms includes related fossils, models and supplementary material to support all aspects of the connection between dinosaurs and birds. Furthermore, the virtual space can grow infinitely and be reorganized, endlessly. The virtual world for OvirapTour was created by Jason Bannister at Mechanimal. OvirapTour has been shown to general public and K-12 school audiences since the opening of the physical hall in 2008.

Another important tour is the virtual Egyptian Temple, part of part of the Museum's regular offerings, such as a tour of the Egypt collection and children's overnight "Egypt Camp". Currently, it employs an older version of the temple (2.0).

Seneca Village

An exciting phase of the project was when PublicVR and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History collaborated with the Art Institute of Pittsburgh (AIP), a local college. Some of their students built Virtual Seneca Village under the supervision of the Museum curator responsible for the American Indian exhibits. Like the Egyptian Temple, the Seneca village is used in children's events and special tours.

Other AIP students made artifacts for the virtual Temple as part of their coursework. Many of the duplicates are replicas from the museum's physical collection. They each received college credit, and a nice portfolio pieces they can point to in the theater.

For more explanation on all of this, please see:

Handron, K., Jacobson, J. (2010). Extending Physical Collections Into the Virtual Space of a Digital Dome, The 11th International Symposium on Virtual Reality, Archaeology and Cultural Heritage VAST (2010), A. Artusi, M. Joly-Parvex,G. Lucet, A. Ribes, and D. Pitzalis (Editors), Paris, France, September. PDF

Latest News:

Many K-12 dome shows this year funded by Nord Family Foundation, NASA, and NSF. Ancient Greek farmer puppet/avatar. A collaboration with VIZIN Helping with a workshop in digital puppetry.

Carnegie Museum of Natural History logo