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Attention Movie Lovers: Now you too can spend a “Night at the Museum” with overnights at HMNS!

Editor’s note: This post was written by Julia Russell, HMNS Overnight Program Coordinator and Curator of Education Collections.

Movies have the power to entertain and transport us, and yes, maybe even teach us a thing or two. We laugh, we cry, we… go to museums?

Over the past decade, movies have increasingly inspired moviegoers to follow their intellectual curiosity out of the theater and into the museum. With the release of movies like Lincoln, National Treasure, Night at the Museum, and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, museums across the country have seen a fairly dramatic increase in attendance over the past 10 years.

The Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois had a 7.7% increase in visitorship following the release of Spielberg’s Oscar-winning movie Lincoln. The National Archives saw an increase of 200,000 visitors after National Treasure hit theaters in 2004. Though, I would bet that a good number of those visitors were probably trying to get ahold of the Declaration of Independence. (There’s a treasure map on the back, you know! Or maybe there’s not…) The American Museum of Natural History in New York City had a 20% increase in attendance after the release of the first Night at the Museum movie in 2006 as did the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. after the second Museum movie came out in 2009.

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These movies have reignited an interest in history, science, and culture in the American public. They’ve also resulted in museum staff hearing questions like “Okay, so when does everything in this museum come to life?” on a daily basis. Audiences across the country are leaving movie theaters wanting to know more about the political savviness of Abraham Lincoln, the secrets of the Declaration of Independence, the ferocity of Tyrannosaurus rex, and the wisdom of Theodore Roosevelt. And where are they turning for the answers? Their local museums, historic houses, aquariums, and zoos! Zoos and aquariums certainly aren’t immune to the “movie bump” that’s happening across the country. Dolphin Tale increased visitorship to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium almost tenfold after its release in 2011!

Museum goers can satisfy their movie-induced curiosity by visiting a museum to see Lincoln’s original stovetop hat or dinosaur skeletons in the flesh…well, sort of, maybe it’s more like seeing dinosaurs in the fossil. These Hollywood blockbusters have also given museums a chance to provide some unique opportunities for their visitors. Many museums across the country are letting visitors get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of their institutions after hours. Lucky for you, HMNS is one of them

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The Overnight program at HMNS actually started back in 2004 even before Ben Stiller saw the treasures at the Museum of Natural History come to life for the first time. Since the start of this program, we’ve had thousands of children and adults spend a night at the museum. This program gives people an opportunity to see one of their favorite Houston landmarks in a new light (or in a new dark, actually)!

For more information about HMNS’ Overnight program and how you and your group can see HMNS after hours, click here or email overnights@hmns.org. Maybe you can spend a night at the museum and finally answer the question, “Does everything come to life at night?” You never know, our objects could speak to you in a whole new way.

14 Ways to Look Awesome for Halloween at Spirits & Skeletons Friday 10/31

Having trouble deciding on your costume for Spirits & Skeletons? I got you, bro.

Spirits and Skeletons HMNSHouston’s favorite Halloween party — the one and only Spirits & Skeletons — is back at HMNS! With the entire museum open you can shake your stuff with a stegosaurus, grab a drink with a skink and get spellbound by bewitching gems, all to live music and your favorite hits played by DJs with fantastic food trucks parked right outside.

Whether you go with scary and spooky or fab and kooky — dress up, party the night away at HMNS and we’ll put a spell on you!

 

Here are 14 costume ideas, perfect for Spirits & Skeletons:

1. HODOR: Because small talk is overrated

Benefits: You don’t even have to worry about making small talk, you can just say “Hodor” to everything. “What’s your name?”… Hodor.“What do you do?” … Hodor. Etc…

Spirits and Skeletons HMNSHow to be Hodor:

Step 1: Get taller. Unless you happen to be 6’10”, then move onto Step 2.
Step 2: Wear dark sweater/dress, scrappy scarf, dark pants, and leather bag – bonus points if you can find a Bran to be on your back  
Step 3: Put on your scruffy white wig
Step 4: Hodor!  

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2. OLAF: Do you wanna build BE a snowman?

Benefits: Elsa is so overrated (seriously guys, let it go…)
Warning: Be prepared for some warm hugs.

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How to be Olaf:

Step 1: Wear a white long-sleeved shirt and white pants
Step 2: Olaf is all about the accessories -glue on some black felt circles for the buttons, strap on a carrot nose, and black out your teeth with some gum wrappers for Olaf’s signature buck-tooth smile.
For a more hassle-free version, make your own Olaf hat – see above.
Step 3: Get Elsa to conjure up your own personal snow flurry.

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3. GUESS WHO: Is it me? Is it you? Who knows!? GUESS WHO!

Q: Do they wear an awesome costume?
A: Yes. Yes, they do.

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How to be a “Guess Who” character:

Step 1: Make your frame with some cardboard, paint it, and write “Guess Who?” on the frame
Step 2: Find a colored shirt and paint a question mark on it
Step 3: Accessorize! Mustaches, large classes, funky eyebrows, get creative!
Step 4: Be prepared for many questions

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4. STARLORD (PETER QUILL): Because “Starlord” is the coolest title ever 

Seriously, who wouldn’t want to be called Starlord for the night?
For that extra touch: Add the cassette player

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How to be Starlord:

Step 1: Put on your get pumped music – Awesome Mix, Vol. 1
Step 2: Wear dark pants, a blue shirt, and your signature red leather jacket
Step 3: Clip on your cassette player and put on some headphones so you can groove to your awesome mix on the go.
Step 4: Remind everyone you meet that you go by Starlord, not Peter Quill. 

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He’s probably making excuses to Yondu…

5. THE GOBLIN KING FROM LABYRINTH: Because, Bowie.

I can never decide if I hate this movie or if I love it. Either way this costume is awesome and this girl is my idol.

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How to be The Goblin King:

Step 1: Find a fantastic Bowie wig, or style your own hair if you have skills.
Step 2: Wear the tightest pants you can find, a white pirate/musketeer-esque shirt, black vest, and some sassy boots
Step 3: Layer on some serious eyeliner/eyeshadow
Step 4: Do some sleight of hand tricks with your crystal ball, and you’re done!

People will be looking at your costume like…

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6. CHER FROM CLUELESS: Um, like, who else would you want to be?!

Iggy reminded us that we have neglected Clueless for far too long, but no more!
Um…It’s a pink pen DUH. Like Cher would have a black/blue pen…

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How to be Cher:

Step 1: Find a blonde wig, unless you already have beautiful blonde locks
Step 2: Wear your best yellow plaid skirt suit (we all have at least one in our closet, right?), white socks, and black shoes
Step 3: Say the stupidest sounding, yet secretly most brilliant things ever

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7. TAMAGOTCHI: What? You were thinking of being a goldfish? Pfftt

The best and worst toy of your childhood

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How to be a Tamagotchi:

Step 1: Wear whatever, it’s the next step that matters. 
Step 2: Cut out an egg shaped piece of cardboard and paste on squares/circles for the screen and buttons
Step 3: Cut out some string and secure it to your Tamagotchi board, creating your Tamagotchi necklace
Step 4: Beep every five seconds

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8. PIXAR LAMP: Because everyone loves (Pixar) lamp

But really, this looks freaking awesome.

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How to be the Pixar lamp:

Step 1: Wear all white (shoes too!)
Step 2: Find your own cone of shame and spray paint it white
Pin some white cloth midway down the tunnel to hide your face
Step 3:  Find a white piece of plastic/cardboard for your lamp base and secure it to your shoes.
Step 4: Hop around, stop, and stare, as demonstrated above by this fabulous person.

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9. ELLIOTT WITH E.T: In case you need to phone home

With this costume, you have a built in friend!

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How to be Elliot with ET:

Step 1: Wear jeans and a red hoodie (probably the most comfy costume of the bunch)
Step 2: Secure a basket with a rope/strap around your neck
Step 3: Find an ET doll/mask (a pug doll would do too) and wrap the head with white cloth
Step 4: Bike your way through the sky!…or drive to the party, either way is fine.

Now this is the science museum, so I had to include some costumes to bring out your inner geek. I’ll leave the designing to you.

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SCIENCE PUN COSTUMES: Because anyone who tells you all the good science puns Argon, is lying. 

10. DESIGNER GENES

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11. PUMPKIN PI

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12. IRON MAN

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SCIENTIST COSTUMES: Don’t get mad, get brilliant 

You can’t talk about science costumes without mentioning Bill Nye & Ms. Frizzle.

13. BILL NYE: Because he’s THE Science Guy

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How to be Bill Nye:

Step 1: Wear a white button-up, slacks, pale blue lab coat, and a classy red bow tie
Step 2: Comb your hair over to one side, nerd style
Step 3: Tell everyone that ‘Science Rules’

Remember that time Bill Nye was on DWTS? Yeah, me neither.

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14. THE FRIZ: Because everyone wants to be in Ms. Frizzle’s class

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How to Be Ms. Frizzle:

Step 1: Wear a blue or yellow dress
Step 2: Glue science-y things on it – planets, stars, insects, rainbows, rocks. Whatever you decide to glue on, chances are she has worn it (seriously, Google her outfits, she be cray)
Step 3: Wear a red wig
Step 4: For the finishing touch, strap on your bffl, Liz.

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BONUS: Dress your pet! (Sorry, pets are not allowed at Spirits & Skeletons. This one’s gotta be for home only OR adapt it and wear it yourself!)

CHIA PET: Cha-cha-cha-CHIA!

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How to transform your pet into a Chia Pet:

Step 1: Have a pet.
Step 2: Glue on some leaves/vines onto an old pet sweater
Step 3: Put your Chia sweater on your pet.
Step 4: CHA-CHA-CHA-CHIA!

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Next step? Strut your stuff in your awesome costume at Houston’s hottest Halloween party, Spirits & Skeletons,  Friday, October 31 at HMNS!

 

This post was written by HMNS Manager of Online Media Sheila George.

Gamers Unite: See how you’d fare in battle with Battleship Texas at HMNS 9/20 and 11/11

This post was written by guest blogger Andy Bouffard, Wargame Facilitator.

“To a wargamer, wargames are not abstract, time-wasting pastimes, like other games, but representative of the real… You can learn something from wargames; indeed, in some ways you can learn more from wargames than from reading history.” Greg Costikyan in the collection Tabletop: Analog Game Design.

The Battleship Texas exhibit, now showing at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, provides visitors with plenty of history to read, videos to watch and lots of fascinating artifacts to admire. On September 20 and November 11, 2014, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., another dimension to the Battleship Texas exhibit can be experienced — wargaming

Museum visitors will be able to do more than read about naval warfare, via the written history of USS Texas. On these days you will be encouraged to interact with two simulated battles, each illustrating a different age of maritime warfare and each using representative model ships from their respective age.

Simulation 1
Throughout much of WWII, the German battleship Tirpitz, sister to the famed Bismarck, was a threat in the icy waters of the Norwegian and Barents Sea — threatening to leave the protection of Norwegian ports and attack Russian-bound Allied convoys out of Great Britain or to break out through the Denmark Straits as Bismarck once had. Meanwhile, throughout much of 1942, USS Texas escorted convoys and patrolled the seas, protecting against the likes of a raiding Tirpitz. While Tirpitz and Texas never met, historically, we’ll explore what might-have-been had Tirpitz attacked an Allied convoy and Texas was there to stop her.

Could Texas and her escorts have been a match for Tirpitz?  Help us find out!

Simulation 2
On September 5, 1781, the British army at Yorktown, Virginia, was surrounded by the Continental Army on land and the French navy at sea. Unexpectedly, a British fleet commanded by Sir Thomas Graves arrived to challenge the French blockade of Lord Cornwallis’ army. Although caught by surprise, the French fleet under Admiral De Grasse was able to form a line of battle and prevent the British from breaking the siege of Yorktown. The battle itself could be called a draw, but it did force the British fleet to return to New York for reinforcements and refitting. It is not an understatement to say that this seemingly inconclusive battle led to the formation of the United States of America. 

Can YOU do as well as De Grasse, or maybe even better than Thomas Graves? Find out!

More on Battleship Texas, at HMNS through November 16:

The exhibition, organized by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, highlights the history of the Battleship Texas in service to the United States Navy through World War II. It showcases 60 artifacts of the only surviving U.S. Navy vessel to have seen action in both world wars. Objects on view include a never-before displayed flag from the ship and a shell that hit the vessel but did not explode, plus select pieces from the silver service presented to the battleship by the people of Texas, historical photographs and personal items from men who served aboard the Battleship. A special listening station shares crewmember memories of service aboard the Battleship during World War II.

More on Wargaming in Houston:

Inspired by the National WWII Museum’s “Heat of Battle” wargame convention, Texas BROADSIDE! is held annually aboard USS Texas and uses wargaming as a means to educate the visiting public about the history of US armed conflict.  The event features local-area gamers playing board and miniature wargames aboard the USS Texas.  These games simulate various battles on land, at sea, or in the air, from early American military history, through WWI and WWII, and on to more recent, modern day, battles.  Don’t miss Texas BROADSIDE! 2014 on USS Texas held October 10-12. All proceeds will be donated to the Battleship Texas Foundation. The event is hosted annually by the Houston Beer and Pretzel Wargaming club. Details can be found here.

Houston Beer and Pretzel Wargaming is a group for gamers who meet once a month to share in wargaming amongst friends with good food and drink and wargames camaraderie.  Details can be found at here.

 

SHARK!

This post was written by Diana Birney, Supervising Marine Biologist for our upcoming SHARK! exhibit, opening August 29, 2015.

We fear them, we love them, and we are fascinated by them. We have a whole week on television dedicated to them that draws millions of viewers every year. Humans have an amazing obsession with this interesting group of animals, especially considering that we really don’t know that much about them.

It’s clear from the popularity of movies like Jaws and Sharknado that we love to be scared by sharks. While there is a good reason to give sharks their space, they are not the crazed “man-eaters” that Hollywood has often portrayed. In fact, since 1911 there have only been two deaths and less than fifty unprovoked attacks by sharks in Texas.

You’re actually more likely to be struck by lightning than you are to be attacked by a shark.

However, every time you enter a body of water, you should go in with the knowledge that a shark could potentially be there. When it comes down to it, it’s their space — not ours.

That doesn’t mean that you can never go in the water again, it just means be smart about what you do in the ocean…

So go to the beach, bring your sunscreen (and reapply it often!). But also bring your knowledge of what lives in the habitat you are about frolic in. Feel like you don’t know enough? Don’t worry! Here’s a nice set of guidelines for your next trip:

1. Sharks aren’t searching for humans to eat

There is no evidence to suggest that sharks like eating people. In fact, considering the numbers of people that go to the beach and the attack statistics, it would seem that sharks DON’T like eating people. A beach is a potential buffet at certain times of the year, but the sharks don’t seem to take advantage of it (good news for us!).

When people do get bitten, it’s usually one bite and the shark lets go. This is similar to the other night when I had a plate of broccoli I was going to town on and ran into a bite of mushroom (I hate mushrooms). I promptly spit that nasty bite out and went back to my broccoli feast (YUM). Sharks tend to follow schools of fish or, for our larger shark friends, mammals such as seals. Schools tend to frequent coast lines and often when someone is bitten there is a school of fish in the area that the shark was intending to chow down on.

2. Sharks have AMAZING noses

Sharks can sense blood in a ratio of one part per million. They also have sensors on their noses called ampullae of Lorenzini. These are electroreceptors that can sense the electrical field given off by everything swimming around in the ocean — including you and me! If a wounded person or animal enters the water, a shark can be drawn to the blood but also to the electrolytes that pour out of the wound as well.

There is a common idea that punching a shark on the nose will make it less likely to attack you. This stems from the fact that the ampullae are all over the nose and punching the shark might disrupt the electroreceptors. Another reason this (sometimes) works is that most sharks like certain prey items and most of those prey items don’t know how to punch — giving the shark a strong clue that it won’t like eating you. 

However, it’s important to not just go around punching sharks… right under their nose is a huge mouth with lots of teeth, and you may end up just losing an arm instead of scaring the sharks.

3. “There’s a chance I’ll bite if you bother me too long” – sharks

This summer there was a shark bite incident off of the coast of California with a White Shark. A swimmer got too close to a fishing line that caught a shark. The shark had been on the line long enough to be mad at everyone and everything. When the swimmer approached it, unaware it was even there, the shark lashed out. The moral of the story is that sharks, like dogs and cats, have no way to communicate with us that they are uncomfortable or in pain. The only avenue available is their teeth. Many bites are exploratory or just to say “BACK OFF.” 

A good rule of thumb in any environment is that if it has teeth it can/will bite.

4) Stay with your swimming buddy

Having a buddy is essential for beach safety. Rip tides can pull even proficient swimmers down and out into the ocean (and are actually much more likely to happen to you than a shark attack). Sharks, just like other apex predators, e.g., lions, tend to go after prey that is separated from the pack — it makes for an easy dinner.  So if you are swimming alone a shark might think you are a solitary prey item. If you are with someone else, the shark might still think you are prey, but will be less likely to attack a small “pack” rather than a solitary animal.

The buddy system is also beneficial just in case something does happen. Your buddy can get help and report exactly what happened in case you are in shock or missing.

 

5) Daytime is the best playtime

Most sharks hunt at night, dawn and dusk when they can see the best. Fortunately, most people go to the beach during the day. Just be extra careful if you are going out in the evening or at night because the shark can see you better than you can see them, guaranteed. However, if you are in an area frequented by White Sharks remember that they tend to hunt during the day when their traditional prey are more active.

6) Play smart

It’s important to know what signs indicate a higher chance of sharks in the area. Sandbars and the drop offs around sand bars are a common shark hang out. Sharks can swim in extremely shallow water, so don’t let the low water level lull you into a false sense of security.

An easy sign of sharks to watch out for is the presence of other animals. I know it’s hard to stay back when you see a bunch of fish in the water (as a Marine Biologist, I can be guilty of not staying away from schooling fish), but sharks enjoy snacking on large groups of fish. We wouldn’t want you to end up a morsel in the shark’s buffet.

However, we can’t always see schooling fish. Don’t worry too much since there are more obvious signs you can watch out for including: birds, dolphins/porpoises and lots of splashing. Birds will attack schools from the air, so if you see many birds diving in a particular spot, you can safely assume there are fish there and will want to stay away from that location. Same with dolphins and porpoises. They eat a lot of the same foods that sharks eat, so do not assume there are no sharks just because you see dolphins.  Splashing is also a key sign to sharks that prey is in the area since schools of fish tend to ascend and splash around near the surface. So, again, stay away from areas that show signs of splashing, and it’s also a good idea to keep your splashing around to a minimum.

7) Know your local sharks

It’s also good to know your local sharks. The Gulf of Mexico is home to many different species, some sharks you might not see — much less have to worry about. Others, like the Bull shark account for all of the Texas deaths from sharks (don’t be too alarmed, again, there have only been 2 since 1911). We also have thresher (my personal favorite shark), nurse, blacktip, tiger, many different hammerhead species, and many more.

If you followed the news this summer, you might have seen a White Shark named Katherine approaching Texas. Katherine shows us that we can get Great White Sharks in the Gulf. For more information on Katherine and many other tagged sharks you can go to OCEARCH.org. If you are travelling and plan on going to the water, it’s helpful to know what sharks are in the area and how likely your are to see them.

In the long run, it’s important to remember that shark interactions are NOT common, you just want to be prepared and armed with knowledge whenever you hit the beach.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science is teaming up with the Texas State Aquarium and OCEARCH to bring more information and awareness of sharks to Houston with our new SHARK! exhibit

Come visit to learn about (and even touch!) these amazing animals starting August 29!