Luminous Windows 2010

The Bartlett Head hologram
The Bartlett Head

There’s a big difference between the holograms you see in movies like Star Wars and Star Trek, and the real thing. But real holograms are no less interesting and enjoyable. You can now see some amazing demonstrations of real holograms at the second annual “Luminous Windows” winter holography exhibition at the MIT Museum.

The holograms on view include four works from the museum’s collection, the largest and most comprehensive collection of holography in the world, and two others on loan from private collections, including “Hand in Jewels”, owned by Marian Javits, widow of the long-time New York senator, Jacob K. Javits. This rare public showing of the 18- by 24-inch laser transmission hologram by artist Robert Schinella was commissioned in 1972 by the jewelry firm Cartier for its New York City Fifth Avenue display window. The image of a 3D diamond bracelet dangling from an elegant hand, was projected out over the sidewalk, and astonished passersby.

“We’re proud of the MIT Museum’s extraordinary collection of holograms – the best of its kind in the world,” said John Durant, director of the MIT Museum. “I’m delighted that in this exhibition we’re able to display several key works, including the famous Cartier “Hand in Jewels”hologram, that haven’t been seen by the public for many years. It’s encouraging to see the growing interest in holography among both engineers and artists; the field is probably more innovative today than at any time since the 1980s.”

The exhibition opened with a talk, “Debunking Hollywood’s Holograms,” by MIT Media Lab researcher V. Michael Bove Jr., co-author with the late Stephen A. Benton of the book Holographic Imaging. Bove compared movie and TV special effects depictions of holograms in Star Wars, CNN, and elsewhere with the real thing, and demonstrated state-of-the-art moving holograms being developed at MIT.

The curtain goes up on “Luminous Windows 2010” every evening from sunset to 2 a.m., December 12, 2009 through March 14, 2010.