Conversations with Snow and Ice

Conversations with Snow and Ice

observation/ imagination in art and science

Artificial snow crystal grown on a rabbit hair ©U.N.Limited
The exhibition "Conversations with Snow and Ice" was held at the Natural History Museum of Latvia from Nov.10, 2005 to Jan.8, 2006; under the theme of "observation/imagination in art and science". It aimed to acknowledge the bond between natural science and contemporary art as complementary human activities. Snow and ice are common natural phenomena familiar to everybody, yet so exquisitely complex. They were the subject of observation and source of imagination for scientists and poets alike, mediating human interactions with nature throughout history. The key figure is Ukichiro Nakaya, a Japanese scientist who, enchanted by the beauty of snow, observed snow crystals in nature, investigated the physics of snow crystal formation, and produced the first artificial snow crystal in a laboratory in 1936. His approach to science is implicit in his writing "Science is a collaboration between humans and nature."

The exhibition consisted of five parts:
1.  Documented History of the Observation of Snow Crystals – includes Aristotle, da Vinci, Magnus, Kepler, Descartes, Kant, Bentley, Nakaya and others
2.  The Art and Science through Ukichiro Nakaya – features the process of scientific research and imagination in observation
3.  Messages from Artists – five contemporary artists’ works related to snow and ice inspired by Ukichiro Nakaya
4.  The Ice Core Project – ice cores drilled through the ice sheet of Antarctica tracing back the Earth's history of one million years
5.  Workshops and Related Events – demonstrations and hands-on experiments for school children, poetry readings, a dialogue and a symposium with Latvian, Japanese and German artists

"Conversations with Snow and Ice" was held in commemoration of the Museum's 160th Anniversary. Drawing over 20,000 visitors in two months, the exhibition had a record attendance. In offering events and activities engaging scientists and artists alike, including scientific demonstrations and poetry readings, the exhibit reached a diverse audience. Visitors, especially the many school children in attendance, particularly enjoyed the snow and ice workshops offered by Nakaya Ukichiro Museum of Snow and Ice. These sessions were filled to capacity for the duration of the exhibit and the museum opened its doors on extra days to meet public demand. After the close of "Conversations with Snow and Ice," staff members of the Natural History Museum of Latvia continue to offer workshops to schools and organizations outside of Riga.