1969 May 16 - 1971 May 16
Can Man Survive?, which was part of the Museum's centennial celebrations, was an immersive multi-media exhibition with films, slides, soundscapes, artifacts, and three-dimensional displays. It addressed the issue of humans' exploitation of their environment through accelerating technology, growing human population, and pollution. The exhibition was curated by Harry L. Shapiro, Chairman of the Museum's Department of Anthropology, coordinated by Gordon R. Reekie, Chairman of the Museum's Department of Exhibition and Graphic Arts, and produced by Dimensional Communcations, Inc. Music for the exhibition was written by Eric Salzmann. The exhibition took two years to create and cost approximately $650,000 (1, p. 1).
The exhibition was suspended by a Takanata truss, a clear-span space frame. Visitors entered via a ramp which led to a tunnel or "conditioning chamber." The tunnel led to a softly-lit room with two films which covered the delicate balance and interrelationships of nature, simultaneously projected on ten-foot-high screens. As visitors moved on, they saw another film, photographs, and objects, which traced humans' development of and relationship to technology. The next rooms featured the downsides of technology with increasingly discordant music, asymmetric pieces jutting out from the walls, the walls closing in, and images of pollution, overcrowding, and decay. Moving down an exit ramp, the exhibition became quieter, and visitors were confronted with a mirror with the illuminated words, "Can Man Survive?" and a recorded voice repeating, "It's up to you." (1, p. 1-2)
It was estimated that the exhibition could accommodate up to 500 persons an hour. Visitors were charged admission due to the high cost of the installation (1, p. 2).
This is a condensed summary of the exhibition. For additional information, see Sources and/or Related Resources.
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