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Visions of the Cosmos

From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe

December 11, 2009–May 10, 2010

Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe spans history, geography, and religion to examine the ways in which different cultures view their place in the universe.
As the title suggests, visitors will encounter Eastern and Western perspectives of the cosmos. “Milky Ocean” refers to the churning sea central to a Hindu creation belief; “Evolving Universe” speaks to the West’s explorations of space and the mysterious black holes of the cosmos.
For an Eastern perspective, Visions of the Cosmos explores the deity-centered cosmologies of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism, which envision gods as primary players. For the Western perspective, images representing the human-centered cosmology of Christianity in the middle ages are considered, as well as those representing the shift to an astrophysical world-view embraced during the Renaissance. Sections of the exhibition will also be devoted to the intricate cosmic constructs of the Kabbalah and alchemy.
A number of Buddhist stupas, created to house the relics of a deceased Buddha or teacher and depict the cosmos in three-dimensional form, will be on view, as will a pair of gilt three-dimensional mandalas which represent a perfected universe intended as an offering to deities. The exhibition ends with photographs representing current astrophysical findings and a virtual trip through the universe via a digital simulation created by the American Museum of Natural History.

Exhibition Brochure

Special Resources