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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
In the special books library with scientist Roy Clarke. He taught us about the Widmannstatten structure within meteorites.
We had free reign to explore the rock collection.
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.
We had been patiently waiting for a meteor to be sliced so we could film the process, the time had arrived!
We worked our way round the laboratory meeting all the scientists.
We spent many hours filming Dick Fiske processing his lava samples from Hawaii, for our work Worlds in the Making.
Smithsonian Artists Research Fellowship: https://www.si.edu/sarf
Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History: https://naturalhistory.si.edu/research/mineral-sciences
Smithsonian Mineral Sciences Research: https://naturalhistory.si.edu/research/mineral-sciences/research
Smithsonian Institution: https://www.si.edu