Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 5/23-5/29

Last week’s featured #HMNSBlockParty creation is by Makinley (age 9): 

Cow

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

Memorial Day Weekend Hours:
HMNS – Hermann Park – May 27-30: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
HMNS at Sugar Land – Monday, May 30: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Lecture – Lunar Exploration, A Captivating Science by David Kring
Tuesday, May 24
6:30 p.m.
A compelling case can be made that exploration of the Moon is the shortest and least expensive route to a fundamental change in our understanding of our origins. The capability being developed with NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew vehicle provides the nation with an outstanding opportunity to reinvigorate its space program beyond low-Earth orbit. A decade-long series of studies have identified the best landing sites and traverse routes to maximize scientific return in missions that could be conducted throughout the 2020s. The lunar farside and specifically the Schrödinger impact basin is the highest priority target.
This program is sponsored by The Lunar Planetary Institute.

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A Story of Workday Blues, or, How HMNS After Dark Improves Your Week

Monday inches along like a tectonic plate, and you feel the weight of the week on your shoulders. Mildred made the coffee wrong, but your boss doesn’t like waste, so you had to suffer through two mugs of the bitter swill because no one else would drink it and you’re the only one in the office with a caffeine addiction this strong. You hear Andrew yell at the copier again, and you wonder whether life wouldn’t be more exciting if we were raptors.

Mondays3

What you wish the office looked like.

You remember it’s been nearly a year since you’ve been to the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The last time you were there, you learned raptors weren’t at all like the ones in Jurassic Park; those CGI characters were closer in size to Deinonychus. Velociraptors were only as large as a cat, and you remember wishing the little guys were still around so you could have one as a pet, then wondering what you might feed it — cats, maybe? ALF ate cats.

mondays4

What you see when you imagine raptors eating cats.

Dude! You think. I’d totally rather be looking at dinosaurs than the walls of this cubicle right now. And the more you think about it, the stronger your urge to feed your scientific curiosity with a visit to HMNS.

By the time you’re about to punch out, you’ve already decided to venture to the museum to improve your mood. It’ll be a great way to unwind a little before heading home to walk the dog for your significant other. The dog can wait another hour or so; you need some time to yourself. This day has been awful. You send one last email, and with a huff, you swing your bag over your shoulder and you march out the door, your good-byes disingenuous.

Mondays2

The walk to your car.

It’s raining again, but with dinosaurs on the brain, it’s an acceptable discomfort. In fifteen minutes, you’ll be standing below a magnificent 40-foot-long Tyrannosaurus rex. You round the corner onto Hermann Park Drive. Your heart thumps, faster, faster as the concrete building looms above you. The butterflies in your stomach remind you of the explosion of color at the Cockrell Butterfly Center, and the thought of color reminds you of the sparkling Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals, and then, finally, you’re at the parking garage!

mondays5

What you wish you could un-see.

Which is closed. It’s 5:25, and the museum has been shut down for the day. Worst Monday ever.

You get back home, walk the dog, take a shower with the water as hot as you can stand it, then go online to check the museum’s hours, dreading that you’ll have to wait it out until the weekend. But, lo and behold! They’re offering a new service — something called HMNS After Dark.

“You asked, and we answered,” you read. “For everyone who has wished for access to the museum in the cool evenings after work, here’s your chance… HMNS will stay open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 25!”

Holy cow! That’s this week! Bless my lucky stars!

mondays6

What you wish you could always see.

You rub your eyes and double-check to make sure. But this ain’t no fiction, buster. This is the real thing! Everything’s awesome, and everything’s open. Looks like you won’t have to wait until the weekend after all.

That very night, you make plans with your significant other to come out to HMNS After Dark. Tuesday and Wednesday speed along after that.

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Behind the Scenes: Retablos Fit for an Icon

When you walk into the museum store, you may notice the elaborate display wall at the entrance. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look with our Creative Merchandising Director on how it all comes together.

This season’s display is a tribute to Mexican arts and culture and features a life-sized retablo complete with a Catrina figurine. My inspiration were the detailed nichos, or retablos, that are such a central part of Latin American folk art. These retablos are usually under 12 or 18 inches in height but I wanted to create a seven-foot-tall reproduction. 

Starting with a metal wedding arch I found at the local party supply, I wired a support cage along the back and sides of the arch. Foam core cut to size was wired onto the side to create the retablo doors. Then the real work began: covering the structure with a few hundred giant paper flowers!

Arch

Each of these flowers was made by hand, and I gave countless lessons to curious patrons on how to make them. Here’s what you do:

Take five sheets of tissue paper. Starting from the short side, accordion pleat into three to four-inch folds down the length of the tissue. Fold the pleated paper in half and twist a pipe cleaner around the center to hold the folds in place. Cut each end of the folded paper in a rounded shape to create your petals. Open up the folds and very gently, starting from the top sheet, pull each sheet of tissue toward the center pipe cleaner.

flower pile

The flowers were tied onto the arch, inside and out, and paper roses hot-glued to the doors. Next, I had to create our Catrina.

Flowers

La Catrina is a popular figure on El Día de los Muertos. Originally a turn-of-the-century political cartoon by illustrator José Guadalupe Posada, La Catrina was popularized by artist Diego Rivera. Rivera’s famous mural Sueño de una Tarde Dominical en la Alameda Central prominently features La Catrina between Posada, a young Rivera, and Rivera’s wife Frida Kahlo. The mural is a visual commentary on the history of Mexico with La Catrina representing that all are equal in the face of death.

Using an old mannequin from our Exhibits department, I spray-painted it bright red and then painted on a traditional calavera face.

mannequin

HeadCloseup

 I wanted our Catrina to reference artist and cultural icon Frida Kahlo and acknowledge her contributions to La Catrina’s popularity as well as Kahlo’s dedication to Mexican heritage. A rose headdress and Oaxacan blouse, similar to the huipil Kahlo was known for wearing, were added along with a white petticoat that resembles the Tehuana skirts she favored.

FullMannequin

The final piece of clothing is a very special item. This ornate, heavy overskirt belongs to a local los matachines dancer. With roots in both Medieval Europe and Native American dance, los matachines dance on important feast days with Dec. 12, the feast day of La Virgen de Guadalupe, being one of the most important. Our dancer was not able to perform this holiday and generously loaned us her costume.

los matachines

Finishing up the display wall involved climbing up 20 feet to hang more flower pompoms from the ceiling and adding folk art pieces to the wall.

lift

Wall

Our six-foot-tall papier maché skeleton guards the jewelry and retablos in the wall cases.

skeletonSmithGrey

AlexisBittar

Though a challenging project, this display is one of my favorites. Thank you to everyone who stopped by to ask questions while I was working out there. I enjoyed getting the chance to talk about our beautiful and moving exhibit on the Virgin. And it’s the proceeds from the museum store that make it possible for the Houston Museum of Natural Science to develop these exhibits, so we are always grateful for your support and patronage.

 

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Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 5/16-5/22

Last week’s featured #HMNSBlockParty creation is by Charlie Bartley (age 8): 

block party 22

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

Behind-the-Scenes – Wildlife Photographer of the Year
Tuesday, May 17
6:00 p.m.
Featuring 100 awe-inspiring images, from fascinating animal behavior to breathtaking wild landscapes,Wildlife Photographer of the Year harnesses the power of photography to promote the discovery, understanding and responsible enjoyment of the natural world. Tour this visually stunning exhibition with HMNS master docents.

Class – Beginning Taxidermy – Birds
Saturday, May 21
9:00 a.m.
Under the instruction of licensed taxidermist Mickey Alice Kwapis, you will transform a small bird o into a beautiful taxidermy piece over the course of a couple of hours, as well as learning the fundamentals of ethical taxidermy. In this class, each student will prepare their own bird that they can take home.

Class – Beginning Taxidermy – Rabbits
Saturday, May 21
2:00 p.m.
Under the instruction of licensed taxidermist Mickey Alice Kwapis, you will transform a rabbit into a beautiful taxidermy piece over the course of a couple of hours, as well as learning the fundamentals of ethical taxidermy. In this class, each student will prepare their own rabbit that they can take home.

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