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PHOTOS: ‘Gold’ opens at Fernbank Museum Sept. 26

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Brittney Gray of Smyrna looked at a case of African gold on Sept. 25 at Fernbank Museum of Natural History. AJC/Jamie Gumbrecht

Walking through the “Gold” exhibition at Fernbank Museum of Natural History, it’s easy to see why this element has been a part of so many cultures histories for so long: it’s incredibly shiny.

It’s also practical in its many uses, relatively easy to manipulate for those uses and although it’s treated as something rare, it has been found on every continent other than Antarctica. (It may be there, too, but the ice tends to get in the way.) Still, the new exhibit from the American Museum of Natural History reveals that its lustre has entranced people for all ages and places. (Just as fascinating are the few cultures who weren’t all that excited about it, finding more value in jade, for instance.)

Gallery after gallery touches on its chemical, mining, decorative, cultural and economic histories and characteristics, but does less to address current mining practices or economic standards involving gold. There’s a lot of text, not much to keep your hands busy, but enough visual candy to keep you moving.

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As you can imagine, exhibit organizers aren't thrilled about close ups of these objects, but there's a lot of gold. AJC/Jamie Gumbrecht

A few highlights:

  • For rock hounds, there are amazing gold samples, illustrating how a faint sparkle in a rock can be processed into fine metal, but also how it can form in nestlike bundles or thin sheets that look as if they’ve been hammered.
  • A golden room that can be covered, we learn, with three 1-ounce coins worth of gold leaf.
  • A gallery filled with ancient golden artifacts, mostly decorative, that offer valuable context for how gold has been used.
  • A scale that shows what your weight in gold is worth. Apparently I need a raise, because the scale says I should be at $1.3 million.
  • A great local gallery put together by Fernbank curators, who combined  mining tools with reciepts from the U.S. Mint in Dahlonega with 1996 Olympic medals and Grammys by Georgia artists. I particularly love the history about how the dome on our state Capitol came to be gold.
  • Photos by students from The Portfolio Center, who explored how gold is a part of our lives here and now.
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The exhibit includes Grammys from R.E.M., Indigo Girls and OutKast. AJC/Jamie Gumbrecht

See it: Rockhounds, lovers of jewelry, chemistry or local history buffs.

Skip it: Museumgoers who need a hands-on experience, anybody looking for great social commentary on gold mining or war over gold, those who prefer silver.

Want to go? “Gold” runs through Jan. 3, 2010 at Fernbank Museum of Natural History, 767 Clifton Road, N.E., Atlanta. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. on Sunday. $13-15, free for children ages 2 and younger and members. 404-929-6300, www.fernbankmuseum.org.

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[...] new exhibition will move into the space currently filled with the “Gold” exhibition, which explores perceptions of uses of gold in history, science, decorative arts, industry and [...]

[...] Naturally, it makes sense to take your date to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History’s ‘Gold’ exhibit. There’s the history of the precious medal, the wide variety of uses and the sheer beauty, [...]

[...] The exhibit was to close at 5 p.m., before the Friday night martini-and-movie set arrived. The new hours keep the special exhibition open from 5:30-10 p.m. Fridays. During those hours, exhibit admission is free with a Martinis & IMAX ticket, or $7 without a movie ticket. Here’s a preview of the ‘Gold’ exhibit. [...]