The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science is exceedingly proud to announce that the Hall of the Stars, an interactive gallery exhibit created primarily by museum volunteers that allows visitors to explore their sky as never before, was recently awarded the Gold Medal at the Media and Technology Muse Awards. The Muse awards-given by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM)-recognize outstanding achievement in Gallery, Library, Archive, or Museum media, and they are presented to institutions or independent producers who use digital media to enhance visitor experience and engage audiences. Assistant Space Science Director Simone Seagle recently accepted the award on behalf of the museum at the AAM 2104 Annual Meeting.

The Hall of the Stars exhibit consists of a 20-foot-by-9-foot cloth tapestry outfitted with a touchscreen control panel and over 1,100 LEDs that were installed one-by-one into the tapestry fabric. These LEDs correspond to the brightest stars visible in the northern hemisphere throughout the year, and come in various color temperatures in order to demonstrate the variability of colors and brightness among stars. Visitors' interactions with the touch screen cause the LEDs on the tapestry to brighten and dim in order to highlight constellations, stars, and deep sky objects. 300 of these LEDs represent the brightest stars of the night sky and are controlled by a program running on the interactive touch screen.

What started as a simple project by museum volunteers that set out to explain how the night sky is organized became a four-year undertaking that created a unique exhibit. Seagle said both she and the museum were very proud of the work museum volunteers did on this project: "Though the project had some effort from museum employees, it was accomplished almost entirely by museum volunteers. And all that hard work and dedication earned them a well-deserved gold medal."
The Jurors comments, too, were glowing: "We loved the grassroots spirit of the project, particularly the use of low-cost technologies and the team of dedicated volunteers. Visitors are able to learn about astronomy through relatable terms, from focusing on sky objects you can see over changing seasons to what's observable from your own backyard. The Hall of Stars captures the essence of tech projects that do not require a large budget to create an immersive and engaging experience.