By Jilliane Johnson, HMNS Concierge
Summer is near and in a city such as Houston there are endless fun activities to enjoy, so we understand that our guests may only have so much time to share with us. Working at the Box Office, I hear the same phrase virtually every day. “We only have a few hours to spare, so what should we do?” The Houston Museum of Natural Science houses a vast collection of items spanning various eras, centuries and areas of science. There is A LOT to see! I thought I might lend a few of my favorite halls and some standout artifacts to better help you plan your next quick trip.
Witness the riches of The Nile!
Travel back in time and journey through a replica of the temple of Karnak. View various common folk items, tools of mummification and, of course, the mummies themselves! Our Hall of Ancient Egypt is home to ten of them, five being human and three of those five are whole, one exception being local legend Ankhap. He was found in the men’s bathroom at Texas A&M University! The poor guy may be missing a leg, but his story makes up for any missing appendages.
Our Paleontology Hall is the biggest in the nation!
You couldn’t possibly visit the museum without spending at least an hour amongst the dinosaurs. From the Pre-Cambrian to the age of man, the story of life comes to life via real fossils and vibrant murals. Many guests will recognize the names of the towering creatures found in the land of giants, but what of the lesser known discoveries tucked away in the surrounding corners? In one of these corners, just before entering the Late Permian age, you will find a large island display entitled The Soggy Bottom Boys. Believe it or not, this large burial ground of young lovers was unearthed in Texas! Every piece, big or small, in our Paleontology Hall has a fascinating story to tell so prepare for hours of edu-tainment.
Houston: Energy City
Oil and gas should run through the veins of native Houstonians, so it’s only fitting that our entire fourth floor be dedicated to the formation, drilling and refinery of oil and future endeavors in the industry. One may not expect it, but it’s a great place to let the kids run wild! There are two simulated rides that educate guests on the process of finding and extracting oil, interactive panels throughout the hall and the ever-exciting Energy City. Years in the making, Energy City sits tucked away in the far corner under 32 projectors which transform the pale construction into the city of Houston. Here you’ll learn about various types of energy and how it is distributed for everyday use. Oh! And keep your eyes peeled for Easter Eggs. With every sunrise, you can find a T-Rex stumbling about Downtown.
A World of Butterflies
Most animals found in the museum aren’t getting around much, seeing as they’ve been deceased for quite some time, but those found in the Cockrell Butterfly Center are very lively. Guests start their tour upstairs, gaining knowledge about insects, gazing at spiders and are even able to witness young butterflies emerge from their chrysalis. From here, you are then able to descend into the Rainforest where exotic butterflies are set free amongst plants native to their habitat. The Butterfly Center houses species of butterflies from Asia and Africa. These little things of beauty just might lend you a bit of luck just by resting on your shoulder.
Will You Survive?
Death by Natural Causes is technically a Special Exhibit, but it’s a special Special Exhibit because HMNS curated it. The in-house curators and staff brought this exhibit of death to life. It’s basically our pride and joy. On average, you can spend just under an hour walking through different categories: Animals, Minerals and Plants. Toss in some macabre history and jaw-dropping accounts of individuals coming close to or reaching their end and you now have creepy cool trivia to relay back to your friends. With parent discretion, children are welcome into this exhibit to try their hand at the interactive elements such as painting by numbers with Vincent Van Gogh.
Again, these are simply a few of my personal favorite things to see when walking the halls. I hope that you look for yourself, use them as markers for other surrounding artifacts and piece together a larger story. Don’t forget that we also offer public tours daily in Ancient Egypt and Paleontology where a Discovery Guide could take your through the hall for approximately an hour or less. Ask them about the items mentioned above and learn even more details!
Visit one or both of our theaters, the Burke-Baker Planetarium and Wortham Giant Screen Theater and relax in the air condition, safe from the Texas heat! HMNS is a home to many things and beings, but with the right nudge, we’re here to help you get the most out of your time.