Globular cluster M13, one of the brightest globular clusters in the northern sky

(Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)


After my residency at the McDonald Observatory in 2004, where the natural night sky is among the most pristine and dark, I became intensely aware of the difference between a dark night sky and a light polluted sky. Thus began my passion for the dark sky preservation movement and my interest in dark sky stewardship.

Ten years later, in the early days of 2014, I initiated a new artwork, called Sky Scrolls. The project is a global community-based artwork-in-progress that intends to collect the personal stories of people’s experiences with the natural night sky—our wondrous view of the universe from Earth—and re-present them through various installations, artworks and publications, as well as through a digital public archive. The project hopes to unite the voices of sky-watchers around the world and share the meaningful and awe-filled moments that transpire under the starry sky.

The project arose from my belief that our natural night sky is of primal cultural significance, and out of the stark reality that our illuminated night is causing a decline in our ability to encounter this incredible source of traditional knowledge and deep inspirational wonder. At the time Sky Scrolls formed as an idea, I was quietly finishing an MSc in Conservation Studies with the University College London at their branch in Doha, Qatar, with the intention of researching the ways in which our relationship with the natural night sky has impacted culture across time. My dissertation focused on the cultural significance of the starry night and discussed a heritage-based preservation approach to safeguard our view of the cosmos—a view that has become increasingly hidden behind the thick veil of light pollution. This work continues, and I am currently working toward publishing the thesis. A subsequent interview published by The Cultural Landscape Foundation about my thoughts on both night sky stewardship and the Sky Scrolls project can be read here.

My research into the historical context of our relationship to our night sky indicates that across every culture and era, the human connection with the night sky has sparked art and philosophy, science and architecture, music and literature, as well as mythologies and cosmologies. In other words, the night sky has touched the minds and hearts of virtually all of humankind, in as many ways as we can think of, and as far back as we can see. It is my belief that the night sky is in fact a driver of culture making.

Yet, our night sky has become increasingly veiled behind artificial light pollution, and some urban nights are almost completely void of stars. What part of us wanes without a clear view of the cosmos? If the natural night sky has contributed to an experience of meaningful connection, then what is the consequence of our losing such a significant relationship? These are the questions that inspired me to initiate Sky Scrolls in order to recognize and chronicle people’s personal and heartfelt stories of the starry sky. Many of us hold the memory of a profound moment under the stars, and it is in telling our stories to each other that we identify and protect their meaning. In sharing our stories we see how we are linked across cultures and time. In speaking our truth about the meaningful experiences we have with the view of our cosmos, we foster awareness and preservation of the natural night sky across our global community.

Sky Scrolls’ joins the multitude of the dark sky preservation efforts, but as an artwork its primary function is to be a vessel of testimony to the profound sense of wonder that the night sky elicits. Sky Scrolls ultimately becomes witness and archive to the global discourse, one story at a time, on how the view of our universe is both muse and catalyst.

So, I’m in the process of collecting your stories, in your native tongue, recounting personal moments of awe and wonder under the natural night sky. Will you share yours? I'll go first. 

My story takes us to a moment in my early childhood when, by chance I had the opportunity to peer through a telescope for the first time. I was already deeply moved by the stars and moon as seen with the unaided eye, and thought these wondrous indeed. On the night I peered through that telescope, though, I was prompted to gaze steadily at a small blurry object in the center of the eyepiece that was mysterious and unfamiliar. After several seconds of suspense and a feeling that I was about to be handed some new layer of knowledge, the astronomer said to me, “that small luminous glow is another entire galaxy, far from the one we live in, that itself has billions of stars like ours… and maybe even planets.” Every molecule in my being seemed to scintillate with amazement, even if my young mind could not yet identify all the pathways of meaning held in that one sentence. From that moment forward, I have looked up.

Please join me on this journey of telling and sharing our stories about our experiences under the natural night sky, and enter your story here:



Erika Blumenfeld (b. 1971, USA) is an internationally exhibiting transdisciplinary artist and Guggenheim Fellow with a BFA from Parsons School of Design and an MSc from University College London. Since 1998, Blumenfeld’s work has been concerned with the wonder of natural phenomena and our relationship with our natural environment. Approaching her work like an ecological archivist, Blumenfeld has chronicled a range of subjects, including atmospheric and astronomic phenomena, bioluminescent organisms, the polar regions, wildfires, and the natural night sky. In each series, the artist investigates the simple beauty and complex predicament of our environment and ecology, working with scientists and research institutions such as the Scripps Institution for Oceanography, the McDonald Observatory, the South African National Antarctic Program and NASA.

Blumenfeld has exhibited widely in the US and abroad, including Albright Knox Art Gallery (Buffalo, New York), TATE Modern (London), Fondation EDF Espace Electra (Paris), and Kunstnernes Hus (Oslo, Norway). She has received grants from Creative Capital Foundation and The Polaroid Collections, and artist-in-residences with Cape Farewell (Scotland), with SANAP/ITASC (Antarctica), and Ballroom Marfa (Texas). Blumenfeld has been featured in Art In America, ARTnews and more than a half dozen books, including The Polaroid Book (Taschen 2005 & 2008), Arte da Antarctica (Goethe-Institut, 2009) and Art and Ecology Now (Thames & Hudson, 2014). Her works are in the permanent collections of Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Lannan Foundation, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, New Mexico Museum of Fine Arts, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, and University of Texas.

For more information, please visit the artist’s website:



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