Natural History Museum - Human Evolution
The development of humanity itself is charted in the Natural History Museum’s latest permanent gallery, Human Evolution and luminaires from Precision’s Pico and Minimo families light this extraordinary story in an enchanting scheme by Studio ZNA.
The Human Evolution gallery opened in December 2015, and traces the evolutionary journey of the hominins, from the the first upright primate ancestors through to modern humans, and showcases a number of significant discoveries in the understanding of our ancestry.
The Natural History Museum’s Professor Chris Stringer, explained the importance of the new gallery, particularly in light of these new findings: “With the latest investigative research techniques that are available here, such as CT scanning and DNA analysis, we continue to uncover the origins and dispersals of humans in an ever-changing world and present these advances in this permanent display.”
Studio ZNA, who have previously lit a number of permanent and temporary galleries at the Museum, including the acclaimed Coral Reef exhibition, were once again enlisted to light some of the Museum’s most intriguing exhibits.
For the lighting of a series of five skulls and matching facial reconstructions demonstrating the changing structure and facial qualities of the homo genus, ten miniature recessed luminaires from the Minimo family were specified, marking one of the first installations of this newly launched range.
The Minimo Eye luminaires, featuring 95CRI LEDs, cast tight spots over the skulls and reconstructions, perfectly capturing the unique and defining features in each head, allowing the visitors to the exhibition to easily understand the facial development in the presented specimens from homo erectus through to homo neanderthalensis.
Given that the precise location of each skull presented was not known by ZNA before commissioning, the Minimo Eye’s flexibility after installation was a crucial benefit. With a choice of three tool-less interchangeable optics, full 360° rotation through the pan, and a maximum tilt of 30°, the Minimo Eye has been designed for versatility without affecting the discreet and elegant design.
The glare control of the Minimo family also paid dividends for Studio ZNA, as the Minimo Eye could be installed adjacent to the main through-fare of the exhibition, yet avoid intrusive glare for visitors thanks to the large glare-cut off angle.
Pico S1 luminaires were installed with custom stem lengths to provide a steep incident light to illuminate further specimens displayed throughout the exhibition. The custom length and the flexibility of the LED spotlight allowed a precise beam angle from above the objects presented, avoiding reflectance and ensuring excellent vertical illuminance that reveals the significant features of each fossil.
The Pico S1 fittings were finished in brushed aluminum that reveals the expert machining process in which all Precision products are manufactured, as well as the quality of the 6063-T6 grade material that both Pico and Minimo are machined from. This unique aerospace-grade aluminum has excellent thermal performance, allowing the LEDs in Precision’s portfolio to run cooler and more efficiently.
Further luminaires from the Pico family were specified by Studio ZNA for the exhibition. Numerous Pico Surface spotlights were used to illuminate larger display cases, including the the most scientifically accurate life-size Neanderthal and early homo sapiens models displayed publicly.
The Surface variants of Pico provide the same options of interchangeable optics, and lockable pan and tilt as the stem-mounted variants, whilst also having the added advantage of their minimal footprint, which adds to the understated appeal.
This unobtrusive aesthetic is underpinned in the lighting of the ‘Cheddar Man’, a Mesolithic skeleton found at Somerset’s Cheddar Gorge. The 7,500 year old remains are laid flat at the new exhibition, with Pico Surface mounted in a vertical position unobtrusively at the feet of the Cheddar Man, casting balanced light perfectly across Britain’s oldest complete human skeleton.
The complete scheme from ZNA represents a demonstration of the sympathy required in lighting the relics of our shared ancestry. The lighting scenario treats these unique fossils with dignity, yet reveals the crucial steps in the evolution of humanity so that visitors to the gallery take new learnings from the exhibition, thanks to the discreet appearance and superior performance found in both of the Precision ranges.