San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature Connection

Glow: Living Lights
Explores Amazing Life that Lights Up the Dark

Art and Science Combine in a Revolutionary New Exhibition on Bioluminescence

This exhibition closed September 7, 2003

A new traveling science exhibition, Glow: Living Lights, will make its world debut on May 24, 2003, at the San Diego Natural History Museum before departing on a five-year, 30-city North American tour.

Glow: Living Lights is the first-ever museum exhibition to explore the phenomenon of bioluminescence–an organism's ability to produce its own light. In testing the exhibit concept, investigators discovered that while most people are aware of, or have come in contact with, a bioluminescent animal, the vast majority do not know how or why some living things "glow." Those questions and many more will be answered in what promises to be one of the most innovative traveling science exhibitions ever developed. The exhibition also demonstrates how researchers study the phenomenon and how those same natural light-producing abilities are currently used to help find cancer cures, detect harmful bacteria, and even determine the presence of deadly anthrax spores

SubmersibleThe curators of Glow: Living Lights are two of the world's leading experts in the field of bioluminescence, Dr. Edith Widder and Dr. James Case. Dr. Widder is a senior scientist and director of the Bioluminescence Department at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Fort Pierce, Florida. She is an author on the subject and has been featured in a number of television and film projects, including specials on the Discovery Channel, National Geographic and PBS. She was also one of the first women to pilot a deep sea submersible. Dr. Case is a leading expert on fireflies and a research professor at the Marine Science Institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has a distinguished career in the field and is widely regarded as the "grandfather" of bioluminescence research. He is also a published author and sought-after speaker on the subject. Joining Drs. Case and Widder as a curatorial consultant is Dr. Steven Haddock of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

Visitors begin by entering a darkened gallery filled with large organic-looking blocks. The blocks contain rare photographs and film footage of bioluminescent animals and organisms, research-related artifacts, both live and preserved specimens, and engaging hands-on activities that are sure to be of interest to all visitors. To further demonstrate the primary reasons why animals and organisms produce light, the exhibition then engages visitors through a number of inventive light-related interactive devices. Visitors will be drawn to glowing surfaces and engaging displays and demonstrations. Further, the exhibition design requires visitors to explore the space the same way a scientist embarks on an exploration when conducting research.

Visitors to Glow: Living Lights start their journey by investigating the chemical process that produces cool light. They then explore the world of light-producing terrestrial organisms like fireflies, glow worms, and fungi before traveling on to the mid-ocean, where an estimated 90% of the animals produce light. Here visitors encounter alien-looking creatures like viper fish, which dangle a light lure to attract their next meal, and cookie cutter sharks, which earned their name from the cookie-size chunks of flesh they take out of unsuspecting prey in the dark. Visitors continue on to demonstrations of the interesting techniques and equipment used by scientists to study bioluminescence, and then explore the many benefits of this research–from helping to speed the study of cancer-fighting drugs to the detection of anthrax spores in public places.

Glow is produced by ExhibitQ, a company comprised of former science museum professionals. The exhibition is designed by GRAFT, LLC, an architectural firm based in Berlin and Los Angeles. See

The exhibit is sponsored in part by the Office of Naval Research and the Xenogen Corporation, both leaders in bioluminescence research and in the practical applications associated with this natural phenomenon.

Glow | Exhibits