Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ask the Experts: Why did the Ice Age end?

Climate change is brought on by a combination of changes in Earth’s rotation and orbit, atmospheric composition and geological conditions.

There are several factors that contribute to the Earth’s change in climate over time. Atmospheric gas, the Earth’s rotation, plate tectonics and natural disasters are all considered to be possible contributing factors in the climate change. The amount of greenhouse gases found in the atmosphere can drastically affect the temperature here on Earth, the more greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, water vapor and ozone, the higher the temperature. During the beginning of an ice age, the amount of greenhouse gases begins to decrease, which cools the Earth’s temperature. At the end of the ice age the greenhouse gases begin to rise, which in turn raises the temperature. The exact cause for these fluctuations are unknown, but most likely they are a result of multiple factors. One possible explanation for the change in greenhouse gases is geological activity.

Volcanoes, earthquakes and plate tectonics all affect the geological make up of the Earth, which in turn can affect the atmospheric conditions. Changes in the orbit of the Earth around the sun, known as Milankovitch cycles, alter the amount of exposure the Earth receives from the sun. These orbital cycles result in climate change patterns expected to be seen every 100,000 years. The total effect of the Milankovitch cycles are unknown, but scientific study indicates that the change in orbit can affect temperature and climate.

The combination of geological activity, atmospheric composition and changes in Earth’s rotation and orbit, all contribute to the climate changes seen at the end of the last Ice Age.


Monday, February 9, 2009

Disney is here!

After months of planning and hard work by the Western Center staff, the Experience Museum Project staff and our board of directors, The Disney Music behind the Magic exhibit is finally here! We have stenciled, painted, fundraised and organized all to bring this wonderful exhibit to Southern California. This exhibit showcases the role music has played in the development of the Disney movies, TV shows and Broadway productions that we have come to know and love. There are over 50 rare and unique artifacts found in the exhbit ranging from costumes to sheet music and sound effects tools. The Western Center for Archaeology & Paleontology is the only museum in the state of California to receive this traveling exhibit, and will be its home from February 6th to May 10th 2009. We have had numerous geneorus sponsors, as well as excited guests, and had a wonderful opening weekend complete with a visit from Radio Disney. We hope you join us here at the Western Center to experience the Music behind the Magic.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Disney: The Making of the Magic

DA: For an exhibition on a history as creative and artistic as Disney’s, it is no wonder we had to be a little bit creative ourselves. At the beginning of our planning phase we walked into our empty temporary exhibit gallery, looked around and could only imagine the enormous transformation that had to take place…. not to mention the enormous amount of work it was going to take to do it! This was to be the biggest change our gallery had ever seen.

First the walls had to be moved, patched and painted. Two days, four coats and a handful of dirty clothes later we had gone from beige walls to bright red and yellow. The fresh coat of paint hinted at the fun and exciting atmosphere this exhibit was going to create at the Western Center.

After the paint dried, Margaret, Amanda and I got to work on the Disney character stencils. We had made transparencies of 5 recognizable Disney images that were going to be painted on the walls, and began tracing the projector's outline in yellow and red paint. The stencils reached to heights of 10 feet, and required a bit of flexibility to refrain from painting your own shadow onto the wall! Margaret began with Pinocchio, while Amanda and I tackled the Disney theme park castle. The stenciling process was slow and meticulous, not to mention difficult depending on the light coming in from our large windows. Over the course of 2 days, and with help from Holly, we managed to finish Pinocchio, Genie, the Castle, the New Mickey Mouse Club, and Mickey Mouse himself. We became such fans of the outlines that we began to brainstorm about ways to incorporate stenciling into all of our exhibits…..anyone up for stenciling a mastodon?! ☺

With a little bit of creativity and a cast of our own Western Center “characters” we were able to create the atmosphere and appearance you see in the exhibit

DH: Disney descended upon us in a whirlwind of trunks, crates, and boxes. When opened they began to release the magic contained within. Each item they held was packed with care, from the music scores, to the records, to the clothing and memorabilia. All had to be removed from their protective layering of box, acid free paper, and foam layers. Like all museum objects they had to be examined, held with white cotton gloves, and their condition noted in a report. And each has an unique story to tell, from the jacket worn by Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, the Davey Crockett doll, to the dress worn in the Broadway version of Beauty and the Beast.

DJ: There was a lot of technical work that went into the installation of the Disney exhibit. It's by far the most technically advanced and interactive exhibit we've had at the Western Center, and getting it up and running by opening day meant overcoming a lot of technical challenges. TVs, speakers, and headphones were the easy part - the real challenge was with the more complicated displays, like the Disney Challenge game and the sound effects recording booth. There were a lot of wires that all needed to be run just right - and kept away from anywhere any curious young fingers might wander, as well! There wasnt a single electronic exhibit in the gallery that didnt give us some kind of trouble, but, of course, we managed to solve all the problems by opening night.

Beyond the cords and wires, there were challenges just to put some of our pieces on display, like hanging the sun backdrop on our Lion King stage, which weighs over 40 lbs and hangs 10 feet off the ground, suspended by cables only 1/16" thick.

Once all the exhibits were installed, the lighting had to be adjusted, too - and that meant climbing into a portable lift and going up over 30 feet, to the top of the ceilings in the parapets - the highest point inside the museum - and adjusting all the lights by hand. You might notice some of our windows have been blocked out, too - this is to protect our Disney artifacts from direct sunlight, which can be very destructive to paper and ink. All those windows had to be blocked out by hand, way up on the lift, as well. It felt pretty good to get back down on solid ground after waving back and forth up there all day

Monday, February 2, 2009

Ask the Experts: Why did the animals die?

A shift in climate approximately 11,000 years ago ended the Ice Age and resulted in the extinction of the animals seen in our exhibits.

In the Diamond Valley Lake area the fossil record supports the notion that large Ice Age animals died not from a sudden catastrophic event, but as a result of a gradual climate change. This change began to melt the ice sheets and decrease the amount of open landscapes. These changes drastically affected rainfall and growing cycles, changing once-green grasslands and forests into drier chapparal and deserts, and ultimately affecting the entire ecosystem. The change in the weather decreased the amount of plants in the area, and so created greater competition for both plant-eating animals (like mammoths) and, in turn, the predators (like saber tooth cats) that hunted them.

The climate shift also created new environments for bacteria and disease. The microorganisms thrived due to warmer temperatures, as well as new available animal hosts. The slow metabolism of many of the large animals, such as ground sloths, could not fight off these new diseases that flourished in the warmer temperatures.

In other Ice Age sites, fossils have been found indicating large mammals died, at least in part, from being over hunted by humans. At the Diamond Valley Lake sites, though, a gap of 2,000 years exists between the last large mammal fossils and the earliest human archaeological remains, indicating that this was not the case for the mammals in our area.

The combination of restricted food and water supplies, warmer weather, and increased competition and disease all contributed to the death of Ice Age animals. The Ice Age mammal’s inability to adapt to the changes in their environment eventually lead to their extinction.