The solution only works if you understand the context.

Deb A. Niemeier


The artists in Sensing Change use their tools of choice—whether paintbrushes, video cameras, or mixed materials—to interpret and explore the environment around them. And scientists adapt existing instrumentation and create their own tools to measure the invisible particulates and molecules in our breathable atmosphere worldwide. 

Our ability to “sense” change has a long history, and the history of people developing tools to help them make observations and discover new questions and answers about the environment is nearly as long. From water to soil to air, the range of information available to us—if we have the right tools—is astonishing. The tools and instruments that developed from the efforts of curious individuals have given us new insights into just how our environment changes around us and what types of data are findable and knowable. Think of the numerous news stories and charts showing us how temperature, rainfall, and the concentration of CO2 in our environment have changed. Behind these everyday bits of information are tools and people hard at work.

What we consider to be our modern environment is an incredibly complex web of processes and connections. Throughout the years instruments have evolved, new questions have arisen, and curiosity has continued to push us to see the environment in new ways. 

Learn more about the people, technology, and experiments that have helped us get a better look at the complex processes and systems of our environment. These objects, instruments, and papers are part of our wide-ranging collections related to the history of science. Many of them are currently on display in our permanent exhibition


Sensing Change: Instruments