Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship
Mineral Sciences Laboratory
Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History (2010)

Materials Processing Lab. at the Mineral Sciences Laboratory, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

We had spotted the materials processing lab on the Mineral Science Laboratories website and were keen to try and spend some time there, meeting scientists and researching and observing how they create an understanding of the physical origins of earthly matter. We applied to SARF (Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship) and then had to convince the scientists they should welcome artists into the lab.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History celebrating 100 years

The scientists in the mineral science laboratory had a vote on whether to invite artists in, after a few months of us being there we were invited to be in the 100 years photo, as we “had earned the right to be there”.


Geologist Bill Melson

We were in the lab every day, getting to know the people, collections, and their wider networks. A major subject of Bill Melson’s research was dedicated to listening to Arenal volcanoe, developing a vocabulary to document the sounds a volcano makes and see if it can help predict eruptions. He has a fascinating written and audio archive observing Arenal volcano in Costa Rica, we helped him to digitise some of his reel-to-reel audio recordings which also feature in Worlds in the Making.

Bill Melson’s volcano language

Mineralogist Jeff Post

Jeff Post has a deep understanding of the structure of mineral crystals and how and why they form the way they do. You can hear him describing these processes in our work Where Shapes Come From.

Volcanologist Rick Wunderman

There were several people who took us under their wing, one of them was volcanologist Rick Wunderman. His door was always open to us and like several others his kindness and generosity extended beyond the lab and our research endeavors.

Semiconductor residency log

On residencies and fieldwork trips we always keep a daily log of research and activities…”Asked Dick if he would read out some of his research notes, he said yeah!”

Sorena Sorenson and her Cathode Luminescence Imager

Sorena Sorenson let us lose on her Cathode Luminescence Imager. We spent many a evening locked in the lab creating time lapse animations of glowing mineral crystals.

Image captured by Semiconductor using the Cathode Luminescence Imager.


Ruth and scientist Roy Clarke in the Special Books library at Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

In the special books library with scientist Roy Clarke. He taught us about the Widmannstatten structure within meteorites.

Widmannstatten structure ‘nature print’

Joe in the rock collection at the Mineral Sciences Laboratory, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

We had free reign to explore the rock collection.

Rock collection, Fulgurites

Sample in the mineral collection

Sample from the mineral collection

Materials Processing Lab


Mineral Sciences Laboratory library

Volcano film archive, Mineral Sciences Laboratory

Volcano film archive waiting to be transferred. Scientists have been depositing their 16 mm films taken of volcanoes with the Smithsonian since the 1920’s! We helped advise on transferring them and they feature in our work Volcano Observatory.

Jonathan and Linda Weisenbach.

We had been patiently waiting for a meteor to be sliced so we could film the process, the time had arrived!

Mike Wise, Geologist at Mineral Sciences Lab

We worked our way round the laboratory meeting all the scientists.

Scientist Dick Fiske

We spent many hours filming Dick Fiske processing his lava samples from Hawaii, for our work Worlds in the Making.

Ruth in the meteorites collection

In the office provided to artists on the Smithsonian residency


Mineral slice

Exploring by bike


Exploring the meteorite collection



Mineral crystal in the Smithsonian collection


Mineral crystal in the Smithsonian collection

Smithsonian Artists Research Fellowship:
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History:
Smithsonian Mineral Sciences Research:
Smithsonian Institution: