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New Mid-America exhibit captures the science of selfies


Evolution of the Camera

Mid-America Science Museum continues to prove that science really is all around as it debuts its newest exhibit, Point of View, to show the science behind the evolution of the camera.


In the exhibit, which takes the place of what was previously known as the shadow trapper room, a collection of 80 cameras spanning from 1899-2008 can be found upon entry.


MASM educator Hayley Chronister said although not every camera is represented in the displayed collection, most are as it illustrates the evolution of the camera. And the science is what's behind this evolution. It's the science that carried the camera from needing a chemical process to see the final result to just a decisecond click on the phone in your pocket.


"Cameras are a lot about optics and reflection and the way that the light hits the lens and it has to be very precise," Chronister said. "And even like awhile ago when cameras first came about it was very a chemical process; you know like the dark room, and if you ever dropped your disposable camera and it opened, your film is ruined because it's exposed to the light.


"So it use to be very chemical, but Polaroid is pretty revolutionary too. That was like the instant photograph that you could have right then. You didn't have to send it off to be processed or anything like that, and so Polaroid is a big figure in the camera evolution."


While there are many brands displayed in the collection, she said in addition to the Polaroid the Kodak played another crucial role in the evolution of the camera.


Kodak Brownies

"So Eastman Kodak, he is the founder and inventor of the Kodak camera and film. And so it started with these accordion( cameras), and then it kind of moved down over here to the Brownies. And these (Brownies) are these little boxes. The Brownies are super cool because this allowed the regular person to have access to photography and really capture memories. ... Back then these cameras were around $2.50, so more people were able to take photos."


After viewing the camera collection, turn your attention to the "selfie room," which represents present-day photography.


"Everyone's taking selfies," Chronister said. "We put our whole lives on the internet and I thought this was a good way for people and families to make memories in a museum."


Of the elements in the selfie room, you will find a mirror wall.


Wilkins and Chronister

"It's really interesting because in the 1800's when people were playing with photography there were mirrored selfies even back then, which is kind of crazy," Chronister said. "Because you don't hold the camera up, a big one like that, to your face, so people would hold it like this, and take it in a mirror, and I thought that was pretty cool because we still do that now."


You will also find a mural wall, painted by Chronister.


"I wanted it to kind of go with the Polaroid 60's, 70's kind of feel, so that's why we did these really groovy colors," she said, pointing to the wavy pink, green, orange and blue optical illusion painted on the wall.


The last element of the room is a polaroid frame people can have their photo taken in.


"I feel like most of our audience is mostly families, and especially families with younger kids, so I really hope that this (exhibit) will draw college kids, or teenagers," Chronister said. "This will appeal to them because social media's so big. So we kind of wanted to involve ourselves in that aspect."


The exhibit was curated by Chronister, and constructed by MASM exhibit technician Ben Wilkins. The camera collection was temporarily donated by local photographers Jessica Mansilla and JuJu McGrew. The exhibit opened Friday, and it expected to run for one year.


For more information on Mid-America and its hours of operation, click here.


Point of View