Category Archives: Natural

Museum of Jurassic Technology

Los Angeles, California is home of today’s “Museum of the Day,” the quirky and wonderful Museum of Jurassic Technology.

The Museum of Jurassic Technology is a museum located at 9341 Venice Boulevard in the Palms district of Los Angeles, California (although it has a postal address of Culver City because it is served by that city’s post office). It was founded by David Hildebrand Wilson and Diana Drake Wilson (husband and wife) in 1988.

The museum calls itself “an educational institution dedicated to the advancement of knowledge and the public appreciation of the Lower Jurassic”; the relevance of the term “Lower Jurassic” to the museum’s collections is left uncertain and unexplained. The museum’s collection includes a mixture of artistic, scientific, ethnographic, and historic, as well as some unclassifiable exhibits, and the diversity of its offerings evokes the cabinets of curiosities that were the 16th-century predecessors of modern natural history museums. The factual claims of many of the museum’s exhibits strain credibility, provoking an array of interpretations from commentators. The museum was the subject of a 1995 book by Lawrence Weschler entitled Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder: Pronged Ants, Horned Humans, Mice on Toast, And Other Marvels of Jurassic Technology, which describes in detail many of its exhibits. David Hildebrand Wilson received a MacArthur Foundation fellowship in 2001. The museum is also mentioned in the novel The Museum of Innocence, by Nobel-laureate Orhan Pamuk.

Sounds interesting, no? I look forward to a trip to California soon!

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Witte Museum

1175366_f520San Antonio, Texas is where you’ll find today’s “Museum of the Day,” the Witte Museum.

Located on the banks of the beautiful San Antonio River in Brackenridge Park, the Witte Museum is San Antonio’s premier museum focusing on South Texas history, science and water resources.

The story of the Witte Museum is one of community vision and dedication that created an institution and has sustained it for 80 years. It is the story of men and women from diverse walks of life whose creativity was challenged as they raised funds literally one penny at a time to establish the museum that we still enjoy three quarters of a century later. The Witte Museum has proven as resilient as those who founded it. It has survived the Depression and wars, and in the 21st century remains the most heavily visited of San Antonio’s museums.

San Antonio was a modern, thriving town in the early twentieth century, but lacked many of the cultural institutions that marked other great American cities. Notably, there was no public museum. Local residents relied on privately owned exhibits of art and zoological collections to provide them a glimpse of the wonders of the artistic and natural world. Unlike other cities, San Antonio in the early 1900s had no men and women of extravagant wealth to build their cultural institutions. Instead, the Witte Museum was the product of a disparate group of individuals that included the owner of a large natural history collection, H.P. Attwater, prominent clubwomen including Lena McAllister and Ethel Tunstall Drought, and Mayor John Tobin. They were inspired by a local high school teacher, Ellen Schulz, who envisioned a public museum for the enjoyment of all San Antonians.

Ellen Schulz was aware that H.P. Attwater’s renowned collection was for sale, and after seeing it in 1922 she became determined to acquire it for San Antonio. By early 1923, schoolchildren were standing on street corners calling, “Spare a dime?” and community leaders had formed an organization they called the San Antonio Museum Association to assist in the effort. Through sales of bluebonnets, cakes and performances of “Peter Pan” and “Los Pastores,” the community contributed $6,200 to purchase the Attwater Collection, install it at Main Avenue High School, and open the city’s first public museum on October 8, 1923.

Even before the museum opened, Lena McAllister suggested to Schulz that a formal museum be organized and constructed. The idea took hold as the Attwater Collection’s popularity inspired other donors and the museum soon outgrew its home. By 1924, Schulz, accompanied by her friend and high school principal, Emma Gutzeit, visited Mayor Tobin to enlist the city’s support to build a museum. Though the mayor reportedly first inquired, “What is a museum?” he was eventually converted to the cause. He was even convinced by Ethel Tunstall Drought, president of the San Antonio Art League, that the museum needed a second story where her organization’s growing art collection could be displayed. Led by Tobin, the city committed land in San Pedro Park, and on June 22, 1925, approved $25,000 for construction of the building. Ground was broken for the new museum on September 22, 1925, and then, two days later, local businessman Alfred G. Witte died.

Museum advocates and the mayor were not aware that Alfred Witte, in his will dated June 6, 1921, bequeathed $65,000 to the City of San Antonio for construction of a museum of art, science and natural history to be located in Brackenridge Park and named for his parents. Within three weeks of Witte’s death, work was halted on the San Pedro Park museum and Mayor Tobin and Park Commissioner Ray Lambert selected a new location at the “third entrance” to Brackenridge Park (today Tuleta Drive) on River Avenue (today Broadway). Architect Robert Ayres shifted building materials to the site, enlarged the museum design to include two wings made possible by Witte’s generosity, and construction proceeded. Less than one year later, at a grand community celebration on October 8, 1926, the Witte Memorial Museum opened to the public. Anticipating the future, the San Antonio Express-News remarked, “The Witte Memorial Museum has a great field of service before it.” It was the realization of many dreams and the beginning of a long and interesting story.

I know a few staff members at the Witte, and look forward to visiting with them when I’m in San Antonio again. It’s always a welcoming place to visit!

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Natural History Museum of Utah

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The Natural History Museum of Utah is located in Salt Lake City at the University of Utah. The museum is located in a new building that opened on 11/19/11 and is situated in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, overlooking Salt Lake City and inspired by the diverse landscape of Utah.

The $103 million Rio Tinto Center, funded by a public and private partnership, is deeply rooted in place and infused with multiple features that embrace both traditional and new media techniques – a new Museum that sets a new standard for a Natural History Museum of the 21st Century.

For over four decades, the Natural History Museum of Utah has connected Utah residents and tourists alike with the natural wonders and native cultures that define Utah.  As an active research institution with a remarkable and growing collection of more than 1.2 million specimens and objects, the Museum is an extraordinary cultural and educational asset for understanding the world. Over the years, the Museum has garnered the respect and affection of visitors, state and local leaders, scientists and museum professionals through programs of sustained excellence in the areas of public education, scientific research, collections preservation and environmental stewardship.

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Alabama Museum of Natural History

grand_gallery_01-4-113Today I’ve chosen the Alabama Museum of Natural History in Tuscaloosa as the “Museum of the Day”.

It’s one of the many university-based museums that help to enhance higher learning. My own career started as a work-study student at The University of Iowa, where I worked in the art museum.

Located at the core of the University of Alabama Campus in historic Smith Hall, the Alabama Museum of Natural History is a supporting service essential to learning and quality of life at the Capstone.  The Museum provides an appropriate setting for teaching, research, creative activity and service for UA students and visitors.

Experience the natural diversity of Alabama through exhibits from the Age of  Dinosaurs, the Coal Age, and the Ice Age. View the extensive displays of geology, zoology, mineralogy, paleontology, ethnology, history, and photography. Explore the Alabama Museum of Natural History housed in historic Smith Hall, one of the finest examples of Beaux-Arts architecture in the region. See the Hodges meteorite, the only meteorite known to have struck a human, and the State Fossil of Alabama:  Basilosaurus cetoides.

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