Fort Worth Museum of Science and History Review: Some Science, But Very Little History
People who grew up around Fort Worth, Texas will probably remember visiting the old Fort Worth Museum of Science and History on a school trip or with their grandparents on weekends. Historical artifacts and interesting displays awaited around every corner -- and some hands-on science was always available too.
But the new Fort Worth Museum of Science and History is lacking something very important: history. Aside from a single dinosaur skeleton, most of the museum’s gallery space is taken up promoting ranchers and the oil and gas industry.
Light on History
There’s no denying the beauty of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History’s new building. Designed by a well-known Mexican architect, it is elegant outside and spacious inside.
Once past the front desk, a right turn takes you to the heart of the museum. Straight ahead, the single dinosaur skeleton is displayed in a room that helps you make sense of it. Once you finish in that small room, the history portion of your day is over.
A Children’s Museum serves as a playground for your kiddies. Up front, something closely akin to a kindergarten classroom has plenty of blocks and fake grocery items to take up the time your kids won’t need for exploring artifacts.
A decent room of science experiments in the children’s area offers the sort satisfaction that your children will be expecting from a science museum -- and while nothing there is stunning, it offers a good experience, including an enclosed outdoor area with water-related experiments.
Next door, several hands-on craft rooms allow children and adults to experience whatever aspect of science has been pre-chosen for the day. On one recent visit, Crayola light pens were on display along with prisms and other light-bending instruments.
Display cases in the wide hallway sometimes show off other pseudo-historical items, like the cameras from the mid-1900s on display recently.
A large gift shop, a huge gallery promoting the oil and gas industry and a small theater with wiggling and rumbling seats makes up the other side of the hall. An outdoor sandpit called a “dino dig” is accessible from this side of the hall.
The massive oil and gas promotional area has some scientific value and portrays life on a rig, but the presentation is one-sided, biased in favor of the industry that’s so important to Fort Worth’s economy -- and the museum’s funding.
A snack bar and some meeting rooms complete the downstairs. The Omni Theater, an IMAX dome, adjoins the downstairs by a hallway.
Cattle And The Hope of History Upstairs
Sometimes, there’s some history upstairs.
In addition to the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History’s popular planetarium, the Cattle Raisers Museum and two special exhibit spaces make up the upstairs area.
The Cattle Raisers Museum features cattle taxidermy, authentic branding irons and a space-age room glorifying in ever-changing colorful lights what cattle do for us. It’s a sterile -- but not tasteful -- handling of a difficult to stomach subject.
There’s hope for history in the two special exhibit spaces.
One of them usually features historical items related to Fort Worth history while the other presents traveling exhibits. These traveling shows may contain some real artifacts -- or they may not.
Parking Is A Problem, Too
Thanks to a problem partially outside the museum’s control, there’s no free parking at the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. For out-of-town visitors, this may not be a problem, but Fort Worth residents are spoiled by free parking in all of the city’s entertainment areas.
Since the museum is surrounded by the Will Rogers Memorial Center, an aging complex similar to a convention center but with animal barns and arenas, the museum’s parking is all owned by the City of Fort Worth. And because the city recently added a new parking garage, they’ve instituted a $5 fee on all parking spaces to help pay for the garage and keep it from sitting empty if visitors were to chose the formerly free surface lots around it.
Validation that reduces the fee is available for short visits, but everyone who goes to the museum must pay to park.
Worth A Single Visit
For adults and children alike, the Fort Worth Museum of Science and history is indeed worth a single visit -- but you probably won’t want to return. Actually, you may find that spending your time at the Fort Worth Zoo or one of the town's other solid attractions is more enjoyable.
With very few historical objects on display but decent science exhibits, both children and adults will find the place an enjoyable experience. But when trying to decide whether to return, you may realize there’s not all that much to see. Exploring another one of the museums in Fort Worth might be a better use of your time.
The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History’s old building was in desperate need of replacing. And if they had done as good a job with the exhibits as with the building, this moderately enjoyable new facility could have been great fun -- and it could have offered an educational and unbiased scientific and historical experience, too.
The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History is located at 1600 Gendy Street in Fort Worth’s Cultural District. It's near the city's three main museums, the Kimbell, the Amon Carter and the Modern.
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