Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 2/1-2/7

Bust out your planners, calendars, and PDAs (if you are throwback like that), it’s time to mark your calendars for the HMNS events of this week!

Last week’s featured #HMNSBlockParty creation is by Tracey (age 8).

Block Party 9

Want to get your engineering handwork featured? Drop by our brand-new Block Party interactive play area and try your own hand building a gravity-defying masterpiece. Tag your photos with #HMNSBlockParty.

Lecture – Tracking a Killer: The Origin and Evolution of Tuberculosis
Tuesday, Feb. 2
6:30 p.m.
In 2014, tuberculosis (TB) surpassed HIV as the leading cause of death from infectious disease. TB has long been a scourge of humans; however, exactly how long has been debated. In this lecture Anne Stone examines the evolutionary history of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes TB, focusing on the distribution of TB strains in humans in order to understand their relationships, assess patterns of pathogen exchange through time, and investigate how TB adapted to humans and other animals.
Sponsored by The Leakey Foundation.

Lecture – The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change the World by Oliver Morton
Thursday, Feb. 4
6:30 p.m.
The risks of global warming are pressing and potentially vast. The past century’s changes to the planet-to the clouds and the soils, to the winds and the seas, to the great cycles of nitrogen and carbon-have been far more profound than most of us realize. The difficulty of doing without fossil fuels is daunting, possibly even insurmountable. To meet the urgent need to rethink our responses to this crisis, a small but increasingly influential group of scientists is exploring proposals for planned human intervention in the climate system.

In the United States for a special lecture tour, Oliver Morton will explore the history, politics and cutting-edge science of geoengineering that may provide solutions, as well as address the deep fear that comes with seeing humans as a force of nature, and asks what might be required of us use that force for good to combat global warming.

Special Exhibition: Biodiversity in the Art of Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen Closes Friday, Feb. 7
HMNS at Sugar Land
Brest van Kempen’s meticulously executed paintings in rich jewel tones explore the variety of nature and attest to the artist’s belief that chief among nature’s hallmarks is its diversity. This widely acclaimed exhibition consists of 50 original paintings and preparatory sketches inspired not just by the beauty of the subjects, but also by their fascinating ecology and habitat.

Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 1/18-1/24

Bust out your planners, calendars, and PDAs (if you are throwback like that), it’s time to mark your calendars for the HMNS events of this week!

Last week’s featured #HMNSBlockParty creation is by Jasmine.

block party 7

Want to get your engineering handwork featured? Drop by our brand-new Block Party interactive play area and try your own hand building a gravity-defying masterpiece. Tag your photos with #HMNSBlockParty.

Extended Hours at HMNS Hermann Park on Martin Luther King Day (Monday, Jan. 18): 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. 

Behind-the-Scenes Tour – La Virgen de Guadalupe
Tuesday, Jan. 19

6:00 p.m.
Going back to the 8th century in a struggle between Muslim and Spanish naval forces and on to the appearance in the Aztec capital in the 15th century, Virgin of Guadalupe was adopted as a symbol in Europe and the New World during times of friction. Through the artwork and artifacts on display, your guide will trace the increasing role the Virgin of Guadalupe played in society.

Behind-the-Scenes Tour – Out of the Amazon
Tuesday, Jan. 19

6:00 p.m.
HMNS has an unparalleled Amazonia collection which is made up of rare artifacts from thirteen tribes. Priceless pieces of the collection-ceremonial objects, masks, body costumes, headdresses and more-are on display in the special exhibition Out of the Amazon. Tour this temporary exhibition with HMNS master docents who share stories of everyday life among rapidly disappearing indigenous groups.

Class – Growing Fruit Trees in a Small Space
Wednesday, Jan. 20
10:00 a.m.
Homeowners with the smallest urban lots can grow fruitful gardens of increased variety and beauty. Instructor Angela Chandler will teach the techniques known as high density orchard, which enables the urban gardener to quadruple the variety of fruit they can grow without buying a single square foot of land. Maintenance is made easier by employing simple changes in the way home orchard management is approached. Practical and decorative techniques are will also be included. Fruits covered include stone and pome fruits, as well as tropical fruits, small bush fruits and berries.

Lecture – Terrorism, ISIS and Emerging Threats – Evolution of Terrorism Strategy by Brit Featherston
Wednesday, Jan. 20
6:30 p.m.
Most of the post 9/11 terrorism plots are foiled by the observant public and by an attentive local, state and federal police response. Hear how law enforcement tools have worked to protect us, and how enforcement techniques must evolve to meet the dynamic threats we will face.
Former police officer, Brit Featherston, J.D. is First Assistant US Attorney and Chief of National Security Division of the Eastern District of Texas US Attorney’s Office. He works with local, state and national law enforcement officials, emergency first responders and officials, and others on protection of our homeland.


51: More than just a number.

by Kaylee Gund

What’s in a number? They’re symbols we use to quantify the world around us, the basis for astrophysics and time measurement, and among the first things we learn in language.

5: right angle meets curve.

1: straight as a ruler.

Using some mental glue, stick these together and the result is 51, a random number, multiple of seventeen and three, a discrete semi-prime, and the whimsical subject of this blog entry. While probably not in the forefront of your conscious mind, the number 51 has more than a few significant meanings for the Houston Museum of Natural Science, enumerated below (pun intended).

  1. Years

Fifty-one years ago, the original Burke Baker Planetarium was built. The very first venue at the current HMNS, the Planetarium featured cutting-edge projector technology and quite literally made the nation see stars.


The Planetarium closed Dec. 21, 2015 for a complete renovation, but will return better and sharper this March with cutting-edge optics, cloud-enabled digital projection technology, and more seating. Stay tuned to this blog and social media for updates on this exciting project!

  1. Telephone codes

Calling Peru? Dial 51.


Luckily, a visit to South America can be arranged without costly international phone calls. Climb Mayan temple ruins, hear ancient fables come to life, and see one-of-a-kind artifacts in the John P. McGovern Hall of the Americas, a world hidden away on the third floor of the Museum.

  1. Electrons

Antimony (Sb): a soft, lustrous metal element, atomic number 51.


Despite being relatively rare on its own, antimony can be found in mineral form with sulfur, a compound called stibnite. A huge sample of stibnite can be found in the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals, looking more like a shiny porcupine than anything else, but stibnite was also used by ancient Egyptians. The poisonous qualities of antimony made it useful as a component of ancient eyeliner, as described in the Hall of Ancient Egypt. Painting the eyelids with a mild toxin made bacterial eye infections, a constant threat in the marshes of the Nile, much less likely to occur.

  1. Genetic breakthroughs

In 1952, the double helix structure of DNA was deduced with the help of an x-ray crystallography image called Photo 51.


Often featured in school textbooks, the pivotal Photo 51, to the untrained eye, bears little resemblance to the 3-dimensional twisted ladder models of DNA, but visitors can always measure up against the enormous 3D model of our genetic material in the Welch Hall of Chemistry instead.

  1. Secrets

What happens in Area 51 stays in Area 51… the same could be said for the Museum’s offsite collections storage facility.


Holding millions of artifacts and specimens, the facility is full of treasures never before on display. For those select few who want to delve deeper into the secrets of HMNS, limited behind-the-scenes tours are available – if you dare!


Editor’s Note: Kaylee is the Project Manager/Data Analyst for Business Development and Budget at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Winner of Egypt in England Sweepstakes shares her adventure to Chiddingstone Castle

Peggy Garcia had been to England before, but never has a trip across the pond been so special. As the winner of the Egypt in England Sweepstakes through the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Garcia was awarded an exclusive three-day vacation in the United Kingdom last September and a personalized tour of Chiddingstone Castle, a partner with HMNS.


Chiddingstone Castle in the summer.

Chiddingstone is a venue and museum with a fascinating history dating back to the early 1500s. It was the home of the antiquarian Denys Bower, who lived there until 1977 and built a collection of fascinating artifacts from ancient Egypt, Japan and several Buddhist cultures. As a member of the Royal Stuart Society, Bower also collected portraits, prints, original documents and relics from the era of the Jacobites and the royal family of King James II.

In the decades that followed, the castle came under the control of the Streatfeild family, who occupied the home for several years, but it is now run by a board of directors. As a partner with HMNS, a portion of our collection in the Hall of Ancient Egypt is on loan from the Chiddingstone collection. Guests near the exhibit exit can find the pieces in the section with the faux fireplace.


A museum panel from Chiddingstone Castle’s Egyptian Collection that mentions the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

A self-proclaimed friend of HMNS, Garcia saw an advertisement for the contest and remembered the words of her mother, she said. “Mom always thought if you never enter something, you won’t win. Then in April, I won!”

From lunch at Bistro des Amis

Peggy Garcia.

Garcia took her daughter as her plus one. The adventure connected the two women with Mark Streatfeild, a member of the family who owned Chiddingstone for generations. Streatfeild took the pair on a tour of the collection and the grounds the first day. She was impressed to learn that museums connect across the world to share information and artifacts, like HMNS and Chiddingstone.

“What I loved around Chiddingstone was the garden,” Garcia said. “I’m a nut for photographing flowers and stuff like that.”


Ashdown Forest.

On day two, Streatfeild drove the two women to Ashdown Forest, a 6,500-acre park of heathland called the “home” of Winnie-the-Pooh. Garcia called the scenery “incredible,” including the lush greenery and narrow roads. Streatfeild dropped off the pair at Hever Castle and Gardens, the home of Anne Bolyn, where they wandered through topiaries and across a drawbridge and moat.

Day three brought them to Chartwell and the home of Sir Winston Churchill. After that visit, they stopped by the Chiding Stone, the namesake of Chiddingstone Castle. The stone is a weathered sandstone megalith purported to have been a place where overbearing wives were remonstrated, or chided, by nearby villagers.


The Chiding Stone.

For Garcia, the trip ended too soon. She looks back on her photos of the adventure regularly and sighs, she said.

“Those are the memories I want,” Garcia said. “Meeting people, seeing beautiful things, learning something. I’m always into that.”

You can book your own Chiddingstone Castle tour or event through their Contact and Find Us page. The castle is closed for the winter, but will re-open for its regular season Good Friday, March 25, 2016. Enjoy afternoon tea, book a wedding, or just visit as a part of your next vacation to England!