“Luminous Windows” and “Photons, Neurons and Bits”: The Holography Initiative of the MIT Museum

Seth Riskin
MIT Museum
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December 5th 2008 the MIT Museum opened an exhibition entitled “Luminous Windows: Holography for the 21st Century”. The event was a milestone for the MIT Museum, as well as for the field of holographic art. The exhibition showcased holography for the purpose of overcoming the material limits and hours of operation of the Museum and presenting a night exhibition of combined artistic and technical achievement that reached into the public space. “Luminous Windows”, that filled the Museum’s outdoor environment with light, color and virtual space through the winter nights, was a great success, drawing thousands of visitors through the four months of its run. Consequently, the MIT Museum has committed to presenting a “Luminous Windows” exhibition annually, with even-number years focused on technical achievements and odd- number years, artistic achievements in display holography. The success of “Luminous Windows” also spurred the development of a biennial, interdisciplinary forum at the leading edges of holography and potential partner fields: “Photons, Neurons and Bits: Holography for the 21st Century”. The event took place during the run of the inaugural “Luminous Windows” exhibition, and tapped into MIT culture of innovation and significant history of contribution to the advancement of holography, from the age of film to the digital age. Intensive, wide-ranging applications of digital technologies provided the general focus, and active and potential areas of holography innovation provided the subject matter for presentations and discussions, e. g., volume holography for biological research, 3-D optical illusions for brain research, 3-D seeing machines?for the sight-impaired. These activities have helped to re-imagine and re-kindle the MIT Museum’s Holography and Spatial Imaging Initiative, and they have served to generate momentum and collective energy and discussion at MIT and beyond. This paper will discuss the development of “Luminous Windows” and “Photons, Neurons and Bits” and the future plans they have generated for the MIT Museum’s support of the advancement of the field and the creation of opportunities for the public engagement with and understanding of holography.