Montshire Museum of Science launches new space exhibit in 2019

The Montshire  Museum of Science in Norwich, Vermont is setting up a new exhibit to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the lunar landings: Destination: Space!

The exhibit will be made up of three main components: Sun, Earth, Universe, which will contain interactive exhibits about our solar system and universe. Planetary Landscapes is a, exhibit of works by artist Ned Kahn “designed to explore, in constantly varying patterns, the dynamic forces that shape our solar system.” Finally, One Giant Leap: The Moon Landing’s 50th Anniversary will be all about the technology used to land people on the moon. 

The exhibit is part of a partnership with NASA, and will open on January 12th, 2019. 

ECHO Exhibit: Playing Together Games

The ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center has a new exhibit that’ll be running through May 10th, 2015: Playing Together Games. The exhibit focuses on the games that bring families together. It’s an exhibit on loan from the Children’s Museum of Memphis, and is intereactive:

Play King Tut’s favorite game of Senet. Challenge a friend to a game of Mancala. Play chess on a giant chessboard with huge game pieces. Be inspired by our lakeside setting and rediscover the joy of playing together. Reconnect with your family and friends while playing a multitude of games that span generations and cultures – all while getting closer to the lake.

Playing Together: Games is divided into game categories of strategy, math, coordination and physical skills, and racing to the finish with a focal point of an oversized chessboard with giant game pieces. In addition to specific game areas, visitors can “check out” a game from the game library for use the “House of Cards” gaming area or invent their own games using various playing pieces, game boards, and timers. For deeper understanding, the exhibit also explores how people react to winning and losing with a photographic installation recording facial expressions.

Specific game areas include: Nine Men’s Morris, Boc-Tin, Senet, Mancala, and Hop-Scotch.

Nine Men’s Morris, one of the earliest three-in-a-row strategy games, inspired games like checkers, chess and backgammon. Boc-Tin, a Chinese game, is a version of Shut-the-Box played by French sailors aboard ships many years ago. Discovered in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs, Senet is a racing game dating back over 3,000 years! Early Romans played Hopscotch, a coordination and physical skills game with versions found throughout the world. ECHO visitors can jump their way to victory on the awesome indoor Hopscotch court.

Playing Together: Games was developed and designed for children of all ages by The Children’s Museum of Memphis and is sponsored locally by Homewood Suites, Nedde Real Estate, and Saba Marine.


Fairbanks Museum Upgrades

If you’ve stopped by the Fairbanks Museum lately, you’ll have found that it’s closed for the remainder of the month: they’re working on upgrading the facilities. VPR has an excellent look at what’s coming:

The Fairbanks Museum is getting cleaner and brighter, and a former Fairbanks home is being restored to its Victorian splendor.

At the museum, hammers and saws fly in the majestic domed first floor gallery on a frigid afternoon. Exhibits and dioramas are being dismantled, glass is being cleaned, and some cases are being replaced. New LED lighting will bring stuffed woodland creatures, a giant polar bear, and rare birds out of the dust and twilight. But first the animals must be evacuated.

Read and listen to the full article here. The museum reopens on January 26th.

VPR: Fairbanks Museum Turns Road Construction Into Teaching Moments

St. Johnsbury is undergoing quite a bit of construction at the moment, and it’s impacting the Fairbanks Museum – in good ways.

From VPR:

The construction will run right past the Fairbanks Museum, just in time to make travel tough for summer visitors.

But the museum is turning a bane into a benefit.

Adam Kane had just accepted the Director’s job at Fairbanks when he got the bad news. Come spring thaw, the road in front of the historic landmark was to become a construction site where heavy machines would create months of dust, commotion, and traffic jams. At first, Kane was worried about losing visitors.

“But then, you know, as I thought about it and as the staff talked about it, it really became clear that this was just a great opportunity,” Kane said. “We’re a science museum. We teach science, and a construction project, when you boil it down, it allows you to teach. Almost any avenue of science you want to go after is presented in a construction project.”

So Kane rounded up some donors, raising so far almost 80 percent of the $178,000 needed for what the museum is calling “Water Works: The Science Under St. Johnsbury.”

Read/Listen to the entire article on VPR.

This is the best sort of learning that the museum can be doing: showing the very practical elements of physics and hydrology by connecting it to real, tangible things.

A T. Rex Named Sue, Coming to the Montshire Museum

This is really exciting: The Tyrannosaurus Rex named Sue is coming to the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich! Well, a replica of it, from May 17th through September 7th, 2014.

Sue was a Tyrannosaurus rex that roamed North America about 67 million years ago, one of the last dinosaur species and one of the largest flesh-eaters ever to have inhabited the Earth. The “tyrant lizard king,” with its extraordinarily powerful jaws and massive serrated steak-knife teeth, still dominates popular perceptions of the Age of Dinosaurs.

Sue the T. rex is named for Sue Hendrickson, who discovered the dinosaur near Faith, South Dakota, during the sum- mer of 1990. Shortly after its discovery, the fossil became the center of an intense ownership dispute. A protracted court battle ensued, and the court ruled that Sue belonged to the rancher on whose land she was discovered. The rancher decided to sell Sue at public auction.

To ensure that Sue would be preserved for future generations of scientists and visitors, The Field Museum in Chicago purchased Sue for $8.4 million at auction in 1997. After spending more than 30,000 hours preparing the more than 250 bones and teeth in Sue’s skeleton, The Field Museum made exact, fully articulated replicas so that people around the world would have the opportunity to view and study Sue.

Previously, only a handful of partial T. rex specimens had been found, none more than 60% complete. At 90% complete and exquisitely preserved, Sue is the most celebrated example of its species, permitting more detailed studies of the biology, growth, and behavior of a T. rex than previously possible.

Museum Closed May 12–14 for “A T. rex Named Sue” installation

The Exhibition brings Sue to Vermont with a “fully articulated cast skeleton of Sue mounted on a stage, with a graphic backdrop, and a reading rail”. The exhibit will also include touchable casts of Sue’s arm bone, tail bone, and rib, interactive activities that let visitors interpret surface features and anomalies of Sue’s bones, interpretive graphics and text that relate the stories of Sue’s history, from discovery to display, and incorporate actual headlines, news articles, and behind-the-scenes photos taken at The Field Museum.

They’ll also have a separate exhibit on Sue’s Skull that’ll move and growl. They’ll also have touchable models of Sue’s teeth, an interactive activity that lets visitors diagnose a pathology in Sue’s jawbone, graphics and text that describe the story of Sue’s skull from discovery to display, the legal dispute over Sue’s bones and how it led to Sue’s purchase at auction and the process of making the casts from the fossilized bones. ​

This looks AWESOME. Full details here.

SciFi at Shelburne

This past weekend, my Wife and I finally made it up to the Shelburne Museum, to take in their exhibit Time Machines: Robots, Rockets and Steampunk. It’s something that we’ve been eager to see for a while now, with a couple foiled attempts, but with a week to spare, we finally made it up. If you haven’t taken in this wonderful exhibit, your time is running short: the museum closes for the season this upcoming weekend, with its last day on the 28th.

I haven’t been to the Shelburne Museum since I was really little, and there’s quite a bit that’s changed since I was last there. We started off with a couple of buildings and the Ticonderoga, a massive steam-powered ship that in and of itself could pass for a Steampunk setting.

The Science Fiction exhibit was really fantastic, though. Split into three rooms, the main categories of Steampunk, Robots and Rockets all get equal treatment and do a good job tracing the cultural impact in each one, mainly through the toys that they inspired.

The Steampunk room was probably the most impressive, however, because it hasn’t quite reached the cultural saturation that robots and rockets have. Thus, where those two rooms focused on the toys, this room focused extensively on props and original creations, by a lot of Burlington artists and beyond. A steampunk TARDIS (which seems a little redundant – they were built in the times that Steampunk looks back to!), as well as a reimagination of Boba Fett and Darth Vader. Prop guns line the walls, and a whole host of other items as well.

The Robots room was probably the coolest. Minimally presented, shelves held toy robots from a bygone era – tin windups, toy figures and a couple of real robots – a fighting robot with a video of its triumphs, and more. I was thrilled to go to the museum shop and find that they had some tin robots for sale; I’ve wanted one forever.

Finally, the rockets room had a number of toys depicting spacemen and their ships, but also puzzles and kits from NASA, as well as some really interesting propaganda posters. I thought that this room was a little lacking, but it was still facinating to go through.

Outside the building is a quartet of giant robots, which were really cool to see up close and in person.

We spent the next couple of hours wandering around the rest of the museum, eventually ending up in the Print Shop, which is just as interesting as the SciFi exhibit, with a wide array of printing presses, and with someone on hand to explain the process to visitors, as well as a live demonstration for how one worked. That was perhaps the most informative element of the day, and I learned a bunch of little facts that inform what I do every day: typing. (The cases that held the letters: The capital letters were held in the higher of two cases, while the regular letters were in the lower one. Upper and lower cases!)

Overall, the entire trip was fantastic. If you’ve got a chance to go this week, GO!

Museum Exhibit: Time Machines: Robots, Rockets and Steampunk

Flash Gordon Puzzle

The Shelburne Museum will be launching a new exhibit next week that will explore various elements of science fiction in three main sections: Space Exploration, Robots and Steampunk!

Running from June 16th through October 28th, the Time Machines: Robots, Rockets and Steampunk exhibit will be housed in the Webb Gallery at the museum. From their website:

Time Machines explores the power of imagination to transport us to another time and place. From Flash Gordon to neo-Victorian steampunk, Time Machines is a fanciful and nostalgic exploration of dreams of the future.

The exhibit includes toys and textiles, decorative, graphic and fine art representing the Golden Age of sci-fi – the 1930s-1950s – as well as work by contemporary artists and designers.

The exhibit was funded through a grant of $25,000 from the People’s United Bank:

“People’s United Bank is a vital partner in helping Shelburne Museum to develop new exhibits and programming each year that explore broad topics in art, design, and history that reach over 100,000 people annually, “ said Tom Denenberg, Director. “The museum is proud to have the support of People’s United Bank in our efforts to contribute to a great cultural and educational environment in Vermont.”

For more information on the exhibit, take a look here.

Vermont Toy Museum

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to visit the Vermont Toy Museum in Quechee, Vermont. Located above the Quechee Gorge Village shopping center, the museum is a small, hidden surprise for anyone who’s not actively looking for something like that. It’s a welcome surprise, because it’s a facinating half-hour of nostalgia.

Walking into the museum, the coolest thing is above your head: looking up, the designers have taken a couple of hundred board games and attached them to the ceiling. Moving forward, there’s a sort of chronology of toys: toys of every type are present, going to some of the roots of mass-commercialization from Cracker Jack boxes, toy guns, dolls, badges, and moving right up through to action fictures, lunch boxes, play sets, and quite a bit more.

There’s a lot of nostalgia wrapped up in the small space: I recognized a ton of action figures that I, or my friends played with as kids, while Megan and I spent quite a bit of time just remembering what we had played with. There’s some notable ommissions: I didn’t see any Legos or Play Mobile sets present, which seems a bit odd, and between the displays, there’s very, very little to explain to the guest what they’re looking at. It would have been cool to see something that helps tell the story of toys in America, but what we get is still quite a bit of fun to paruse.