County library system launches mobile Exploratorium-like initiative


Note: The Lookmobile will visit the library in East Palo Alto for five days, starting Dec. 12. Visits are scheduled for libraries in Atherton (Jan. 14 to 20), Portola Valley (Feb. 27 to March 5), and Woodside (March 6 to 11).


By Dave Boyce | Almanac Staff Writer

A history on the use of perspective in art, available at the website of Dartmouth College, says that it wasn't until around 1400 that artists understood and began to realistically portray, in drawings and paintings, a three-dimensional object on a two-dimensional surface such as a canvas.

But artists from the Middle Ages and earlier were working at a disadvantage: they did not have access to the San Mateo County Libraries' Lookmobile, a 3,000-square-foot trailer scheduled to make visits to member libraries, including in Atherton and Portola Valley.

A kind of Exploratorium on wheels, the walls of the Lookmobile have "perspective windows," transparent acrylic surfaces that allow kids to observe three-dimensional scenes outside and use dry-erase pens to trace on the windows the dimensions of the real objects they see on the other side.

"It’s often quite surprising to people how perspective makes very large things quite small in a drawing," library system spokeswoman Maria Chiochios said in explaining the windows.

Perspective windows is one of several "core experiences" available in the Lookmobile. The others include:

• A wall display designed to encourage a deeper understanding of maps as communication devices, including maps with a viewpoint and maps with "quirky" character. Visitors can also try their hands at making their own maps.

• A camera obscura, in which visitors see an image on a wall projected there via a pinhole on the opposite wall. Like the perspective window, artists can use projected images as a guide for creating works of art.

• A fog tricycle – a machine mounted on a tricycle that emits clouds of heavy fog, allowing visitors to observe fog forming and moving in response to the character of the surface.

Go to for more information.

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