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  • Writer's pictureAmarinda Keys

New Exhibit Update: Listening Vessels have been delivered!

Updated: Nov 6, 2021

What if I told you that I could whisper something in your ear from 90 feet away? With the newest exhibit piece to be delivered, that is actually possible!

Image of the Listening Vessel

The Listening Vessels are a donation from the Exploratorium, a children’s museum in California. Designed by Douglas Hollis, these Vessels had previously been part of a traveling exhibit and have now found a permanent home with us, here in Maine! Doug, who is a friend of our exhibit designer Rusty, thought these would make an excellent addition to our space and reached out to us to coordinate. We are so excited to install these next year!

Doug, who has focused his career on creating public art, has made several iterations of this piece which can be found all over the country, including Houston, Oregon, San Francisco… and now Maine!

Doug created the concept for the Vessels as part of a contemporary art program for Berkley Art Museum MATRIX in the spring of 1987. How do these Vessels work? The shape of the Vessel’s dish collects the sounds that bounce through the air, funneling them down into a single point. This point is located at ear level for a person seated inside the dish. When two people sit, one in each Vessel, facing each other, they can talk to one another, even in a whisper! The Vessel will also amplify ambient sound, collecting sound waves from all around and concentrating them in one spot.

These vessels are so large that they will actually be incorporated into the entryway and outdoor space in front of the museum. They will be a part of an entire redesign of the space, including a new ADA-accessible ramp, new landscaping, and clear wayfinding to help lead visitors from the parking lot to our front doors.

Information and images about the Listening Vessels come from Over the Water: Douglas Hollis, a 2018 publication by Exploratorium in San Francisco.

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