Houston Museum of Natural Science
By Joan Whetzel
The Houston Museum of Natural Sciences is one of the most popular destinations for families and school field trips. The exhibits in the Main Gallery have evoloved over time and now include many interactive exhibits which the kids adore. Visitors also love visiting the special, short-term exhibits, the Cockerel Butterfly Center, the Burke Baker Planetarium, and the Wortham IMAX Theater.
The Main Gallery hosts a number of exhibits.
- paleontology - the dinosaur exhibits
- gems and minerals - all kinds of gemstones and mineral samples, including phosphorescent and fluorescent stones
- energy hall - all about the oil industry
- the Americas - North and South American civilizations
- African wildlife - dioramas of African animals
- Texas wildlife - dioramas of the animals found in Texas
- Chemistry - dioramas and interactive exhibits about the field of chemistry
- Malacology - seashell and mollusk exhibits
- Earth Forum - interactive exhibits about Earth's geology and geography
- Egypt - over 4,000 years of Egyptian history
- Foucault Pendulum - a three story length pendulum that swings continuously
Of the diorama exhibits, many have holographic characters explaining the scene displayed. Many of the exhibits are interactive which is great for parents and kids alike.
Cockerel Butterfly Center
A popular exhibit at HMNS, the Cockerel Butterfly Center allows visitors to view butterflies in their natural habitat. Other exhibits include viewing a cross-section of a live working beehive, a live poison dart frog exhibit, a corpse flower, and a large entomology exhibit as well as a number of interactive exhibits for the kids.
Burke Baker Planetarium
The Burke Baker Planetarium invites visitors to explore the wonders and possibilities of space with high-resolution videos and images of the planets, stars, solar systems, meteors, and galaxies all projected onto the domed ceiling. The planetarium has been opened since 1964, presenting astronomy programs to school children and the general public.
HMNS has a few outdoor exhibits as well:
- Our Solar System: a diagram of our solar system using plaques to display the information about the sun and each of the planets. Each planet's plaque includes an image of its planet. Each of the planets are placed at its proper distance from the sun. The image size and placement are sized to scale
- Sundial: This is a modern version of one form of the sundial allowing visitors to tell time by the sun.
Wortham IMAX Theater
The Wortham IMAX Theater offers flat and 3D films on its huge 60 by 80 foot screen, showing documentary films lasting from 30 to 40 minutes. The theater boasts a six-track sound system. With stadium style seating, the theater can seat hundreds of visitors.
The George Observatory in Brazos Bend State Park, sadly, is not part of the Free Museum Day. The George Observatory is owned and operated by HMNS, offering research time to professional and college level researchers. It is open to the public every Saturday evening, year round and is well worth the trip. The Challenger Learning Center, housed in the observatory building, creates a learning experience for scout troops and school field trips where the kids get to learn how to run a mock shuttle trip to the International Space Station. Check out the website below for information on the Observatory and the Challenger Learning Center.
For more information on other HMNS Installations, check out these websites:
- Houston Museum of Natural Science
- HMNS @ Sugarland
- George Observatory at Brazos Bend State Park
- The Houston Museum District
- Houston Museum District Day
- The Cockrell Butterfly Center
- Challenger Learning Center