Category Archives: Science

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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Georgia Aquarium

???????????????????Located in Atlanta, the Georgia Aquarium is the “Museum of the Day” for January 29, 2014.

The Georgia Aquarium is the world’s largest aquarium with more than 10 million gallons of water and more aquatic life than any other aquarium. Situated in the heart of downtown Atlanta, Georgia Aquarium is a nonprofit organization dedicated to being a global leader in research and conservation programs that mirror the unique and amazing animals seen within the facility.

Since its founding, Georgia Aquarium has been committed to inspiring current and future generations through a focus on respectful display, education and conservation of marine mammals and all aquatic species. Aquarium staff, partners and researchers are impacting the future of our aquatic world by ensuring that guests learn and care about the extraordinary animal ambassadors and in the hopes they become advocates on their behalf. The six distinct galleries within Georgia Aquarium depict different aquatic habitats, ranging from arctic to tropical waters, featuring the largest collection of aquatic animals.

The Aquarium is a $250+ million gift to the Atlanta community and the people of the state of Georgia from Bernie Marcus, co-founder of The Home Depot, and his wife Billi, through the Marcus Foundation. The Aquarium in total is a $433+ million facility. The Aquarium opened debt-free to the city of Atlanta November 23, 2005. The Aquarium is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization, overseen by a board of directors.

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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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Museum of Flight

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Today’s “Museum of the Day” is the outstanding Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington.

The independent, non-profit Museum of Flight is one of the largest air and space museums in the world, attracting more than 500,000 visitors annually. The Museum’s collection includes over 150 historically significant air- and spacecraft, as well as the Red Barn®—the original manufacturing facility of The Boeing Co., the original papers of the Wright brothers, and the one-of-a-kind NASA Space Shuttle Trainer, used to train every space shuttle astronaut since the inception of the program.

Among the most popular exhibits at the Museum are the world’s first fighter plane, the first jet Air Force One, the prototype Boeing 747, the West Coast’s only Concorde, and the world’s fastest aircraft – the Blackbird spy plane. More than just an attraction, however, the Museum is a hub of science, technology, engineering, and math education, serving over 150,000 participants each year through on-site and outreach programs and the Museum’s aviation and space library and archives are the largest on the West Coast, holding more than 1.4 million images. The Museum of Flight is accredited by the American Associations of Museums, and is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.

I hope to visit this museum in May 2014!

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California Academy of Sciences

calacademyToday’s “Museum of the Day” continues our exploration of “green” museums, but this one is dedicated to science.

The California Academy of Sciences is another great example of an environmentally friendly  museum. The CAS is the only place on the planet with an aquarium, a planetarium, a natural history museum, and a 4-story rainforest all under one roof.  It’s a stunning architectural achievement with hundreds of unique exhibits and nearly 40,000 live animals. Designed by famed museum architect Renzo Piano, his masterstroke of design lies in making the park’s environment such a visible part of the building itself. Situated in the enormous Golden Gate Park across from the de Young Art Museum, the CAS rooftop features seven undulating green hillocks which pay homage to the iconic topography of San Francisco and blurs the boundary between building and parkland. The museum is a LEED certified building and is the largest public Platinum-rated building in the world and the world’s greenest museum with a total score of 54 points. The California Academy of Sciences is a MUST SEE for anyone visiting San Francisco, one of my favorite cities in the United States and an amazing destination for museum lovers.

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Houston Museum of Natural Science

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Why I Chose This Museum

Today, I wanted to feature a museum about science located in the state of Texas. As we move around the country, I continually search for a diversity, not only in type of museum, but also in the size and scope of institution featured.

About

The Houston Museum of Natural Science-one of the nation’s most heavily attended museums-is a centerpiece of the Houston Museum District. With four floors of permanent exhibit halls, and the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre, Cockrell Butterfly Center, Burke Baker Planetarium, George Observatory, and HMNS at Sugar Land and as host to world-class and ever-changing touring exhibitions, the Museum has something to delight every age group. With such diverse and extraordinary offerings, a trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science, located at 5555 Hermann Park Drive in the heart of the Museum District, is always an adventure.

What to expect

Visitors enjoy a world-class facility that includes the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre; the Burke Baker Planetarium; the Cockrell Butterfly Center; the George Observatory; HMNS at Sugar Land; and the Museum’s permanent exhibit halls.

The Museum strives to continually offer new, entertaining and innovative educational films, exhibits and halls. Through the funding raised by a capital campaign, the Museum expanded its exhibit halls into the Dan L Duncan Family Wing and opened a newly designed Morian Hall of Paleontology in 2012 followed by the Hall of Ancient Egypt in 2013. The permanent exhibit halls, located on four floors, add additional science topics that range from the world-renowned Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals, whose mineral collection is widely considered to be the best in the world; the John P. McGovern Hall of the Americas; the Texas-size Wiess Energy Hall, which is now a model for all others; the Welch Chemistry Hall with interactive, hands-on displays, exhibits, and a live demonstration theater; and more.

In addition to creating its own exhibits like Lucy’s Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia ; Kremlin Gold: 1000 Years of Russian Gems and Jewels and The Human Genome: Reading the Book of Life , the Museum is host to a great variety of traveling exhibits from around the world that encourage visitors to return often. Some of these exhibits have included Body Worlds 3: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies ; Dead Sea Scrolls ; Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor ; Fabergé: Imperial Jeweler to the Tsars ; Titanic: The Artifact Exhibit and Saint Peter and the Vatican: The Legacy of the Popes .

The Burke Baker Planetarium features immersive action technology called “Sky Vision” with high-resolution full color images completely controlled by computers. This projector system enhances images, giving them a “wrap-around” full-dome effect, putting audiences in the middle of the action. The Museum is one of two museums world-wide that produce and distribute large format films. Since 1994, the Museum has distributed five films, including Africa: The Serengeti (1994), the Academy Award™ nominated Alaska: Spirit of the Wild (1997), Amazing Journeys (1999), Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa (2002) and Australia: Land Beyond Time (2002).

Technology

The museum offers free WiFi. No audio tours and no mobile technology has been implemented. The museum has a very active and interesting blog, and it’s digital footprint can be found through most social media outlets. The museum website is not mobile-friendly (on the date of publication).

Tours

There are different guided tours provided by the museum docents in some of the exhibit halls. Some are regularly scheduled tours, others require reservations and cost $5. To get more specific information, please visit this museum webpage.

Collection/Exhibit Highlights

From the Museum Blog

Accessibility

Prices and Membership information is available online. The museum is accredited by the AAM, so I am confident that their ADA accessibility is in compliance with the AAM guidelines. There is no statement available from the website.

Accreditation

American Alliance of Museums – includes accreditation for The George Observatory, Brazos Bend State Park and the HMNS at Sugarland

Special Note

Fundraising Needs: Save Our Scope: The George Observatory’s Research Dome houses the world-class 10-ton Gueymard Telescope, the largest in the country dedicated to public education. It’s designed by the same folks that created the Hubble telescope. But unlike ANY other meter-class telescopes — you can actually look into the Gueymard! With other telescopes, your view comes through attached cameras or computer screens – with the Gueymard, you OWN the experience as you gaze into the wonder of deep space, and actually see a planet or galaxy with your own eyes. Want to help donate to the needed $80,000 technical updates? Visit this webpage.

I enjoyed this video of the de-installation of “Dipsy” – it shows how museum work takes place in a fun and creative way.

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