Labor Day! Fun For The Long Weekend At HMNS

Monday is Labor Day – and you know what that means, right?

LONG WEEKEND.

In case you’re wondering how to fill the long hours between Friday afternoon and Tuesday morning, here’s a list of the top ten weekend experiences you can have with the family at HMNS all weekend long.

That’s right – we’re open MONDAY! Because we’re here for you. 

10. Come And Take It!

A look at the stunning variety of fascinating artifacts from Texas’ rich history, that is.

Come And Take It
The Come And Take It Cannon!
See a full set of photos from the exhibit on Flickr

Texas! The Exhibition closes at 5 pm on Monday, Sept 5 – so don’t miss your last chance to see Santa Anna’s spurs, Davy Crockett’s violin, the Davis Guards Medal and many other objects from a huge swath of Texas history – from prehistoric cultures to the Spindletop oil gusher.

Preview the exhibit with our blog series on Texas History! (And see how you can win free tickets to see the exhibit closing weekend!)

9. Ramble through Borneo with Orangutans

And while you’re at it, explore Tsavo with young elephants.

Born To Be Wild
The cuteness! See it this weekend in Born To Be Wild 3D at HMNS!

Born To Be Wild 3D is a fascinating, entertaining and heart-warming film chronicling the efforts of two pioneering women to save orphaned animals.

Time Out New York says “The kids will squeal with delight.” We think you probably will, too.

8. Discover The True Meaning of Mayan Prophecies 

2012: Mayan Prophecies
2012: Mayan Prophecies in the HMNS Planetarium

Worried about 2012? Explore the Mayan culture in this new planetarium film. Learn why Dec. 21, 2012 will be just another day, but the Mayan culture’s true contributions to civilization are unique and fascinating.

7. Solve A Crime!

If watching CSI makes you think you think “I could do that!” – this exhibit is for you! Study fingerprints, chromatographs, DNA, insect lifecycles, tire marks, hair analysis, thread comparison, and handwriting analysis to catch the culprit!

Crime Lab Detective opens at the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land on Saturday, Sept. 3!

6. Watch A Butterfly Enter The World!

Cockrell Butterfly Center

Our butterflies flit through a three-story, glass enclosed rain forest habitat – and it’s a showstopper of the large-scale variety. But you shouldn’t miss the Hall of Entomology on the upper level – where you can watch butterflies emerge from their chrysalides daily. It’s a quiet moment of tranformation, rebirth and wonder that everyone should experience.

5. Discover a Modern-Day Dragon

Think all dragons breathe fire? Some just flash it – including The Dragon, one of the world’s most famous mineral specimens.

The Dragon | HMNS Mineral Hall

It just so happens to be part of our collection – on permanent display in the Hall of Gems and Minerals, along with literally hundreds of the world’s finest gems and minerals. Hundreds. 

4. Develop An Intense Desire To Wear This.

Ancient Ukraine Exhibit at HMNS
Preview the entire exhibition in this set of photos on Flickr.

If you’ve followed our advice on #4, you’ve likely whetted your appetite for gold. And our Ancient Ukraine exhibition (closing Sept. 5!) could be called: Gold! Oh, And Some More Gold. (Except that it also features fascinating artifacts made from many other materials, from the entire 6,000 year history of Ukraine.)

Get an idea of what you’re in for in our curator’s blog series on Ancient Ukraine.

3. Spend Saturday With The Stars!

George Observatory

Long weekends are the perfect time to make the long drive out to our George Observatory. It’s an hour outside Houston, but that means light pollution is at a minimum – and stars are at a maximum.

If you’ve never been, you will marvel  at the number of stars you can see with the naked eye – and the astronomical detail you can view through our Gueymard telescope, one of the largest in the country that’s available for public viewing.

The Observatory is open every Saturday night from 3 – 10 pm. Get Directions and information on Admission.

2. Explore Two Continents

Hall of the Americas

Our Hall of the Americas features cultures from the Inuit in Alaska to the Inca of Peru – go on an expedition through hundred of years of American history and over 2 continents this weekend!

1. Take The Science Fun Home!

The HMNS Museum Store has a metric ton of science ideas and activities to take home – and your purchases always support our science educational programs! Grab the Pocket Starfinder for your Big Bend camping excursion, take the Encyclopedia of Texas Shells on a seashore expedition, or identify what’s fluttering around your own backyard with the Butterflies of Houston and Southeast Texas Guide.

From a Galileo Thermometer to track the summer heat to a Dinosaur Hunter Field Canteen, we’ve got everything you need to close out the summer right!

Here’s to a great long weekend – hope to see you here at HMNS!

Born to be Wild 3D – Baby Orangutans!!

Born to be Wild 3d is an amazingly cute IMAX film about how two exceptional people (with the help of their teams) rescue orphaned baby elephants and orangutans and raise them. They help the animals overcome their loss and prepare them to one day be re-released into the wild. Today’s blog post is about Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas, and the orphaned orangutans she raises at the Orangutan Care Center and Quarantine in Borneo.

Orangutan Care Center and Quarantine (OCCQ)

Orangutan means person of the forest in the Malay language. “They are one of our closet living relatives in the animal kingdom,” Dr. Galdikas states. “They share 97% of our genetic material, are benign beings and very intelligent.” They live exclusively in the tropical rainforests of Borneo and Sumatra, and are the only great ape living in Asia.

The OCCQ employs over 130 local staff who care for over 300 orangutan orphans, with the intention that all will ultimately be released into the wild. The facilities include an operating and X-ray room, medical laboratory, library, living quarters, as well as a separate quarantine complex.

The orphan orangutans living at the OCCQ are separated into age groups. The youngest ones are infants who live in the center’s nursery. These orphans require constant attention and coddling. A baby orangutan will physically not leave its mother’s body for the first year of life. So the human caretakers are tasked with caring for infants even more demanding than human babies.

In the wild, orangutans will naturally leave their mothers around eight years old, so that is the typical age when OFI’s orangutans are released back into the jungle. At a younger age, they’re still immature and small enough to become prey to clouded leopards. But once they’re older, as their natural instincts kick in, additional time spent under human care can impede their ability to thrive in the wild.

The relationship between the caretakers and the orangutans is significant. The young ones are so fragile during their formative years that the humans who commit to caring for them become, in fact, surrogate mothers. “If you put a baby orangutan on the ground it will not stop screaming,” Dr. Galdikas details. “They are literally pulled off their dead mother’s body when they are captured. They know no other place than in her arms or on her back.”

In a peat swamp forest near the OCCQ the orangutan orphans enjoy a kind of supervised release, learning invaluable nest-building skills as well as foraging techniques. Small wooden facilities allow the orangutans and their caregivers to sleep in the forest at night. The halfway house this forest represents to the orphans is of dire importance in their journey back to surviving in the wild. When the orangutans reach the age of eight years, they are usually ready to be released into the wild.

Several scenes in the film Born to be Wild were shot at the OCCQ and in the surrounding jungle, including interaction with Tom, the dominant male orangutan now living in the area outside the camp. Tom is a totally wild orangutan, but Dr. Galdikas has known him ever since he was born. Thirty-five years ago, she helped raise his mother, Tut, who was one of the original rehabilitated orangutans released at OCCQ in the 1970s.

“We spent a lot of time with the larger orangutans that have been rehabilitated by Biruté,” comments Drew Fellman, producer of the film. “They might be 30 years old, having lived wild now for over 20 years, but they’ll come back to Camp Leakey to visit. They might just come up and sit down next to you, or as you hike through the forest, one will take your hand and walk with you awhile. Many of those that Biruté raised now have offspring who are completely wild, and don’t interact with humans at all, which is a great thing. That’s the whole point of her project. Sometimes the first generation that returns to the wild is transitional and still leans on humans for support, but success is about the future generations.”

Can’t see the video?Click here.

If you missed our blog on orphaned elephants and their upbringing at the Nairobi Elephant Nursery, you can read it by clicking here. Make sure to check out Born to be Wild in 3D, now showing in IMAX

Born To Be Wild 3D – Opens in Two Weeks!

I am extra excited about our upcoming IMAX film Born To Be Wild 3D - opening a week from Friday!

It’s 45 minutes of baby elephants and teeny tiny orangutans, narrated by Morgan Freeman. It’s going to be like having a baritone comfort blanket wrapped around animal eye candy – and it’s inspiring to boot:

The film “documents orphaned orangutans and elephants and the extraordinary people who rescue and raise them—saving endangered species one life at a time.”

What’s not to love?

While you’re anxiously awaiting the release date, the makers of the film have released several fascinating behind-the-scenes webisodes from the production of the film. This one is from Camp Leakey, “a legendary place…Camp Leakey has this reputation as one of the foundations of biology.”

Take a tour of the camp with Dr. Birute Mary Galdikas, who established the wild orangutan research camp and rehabilitation center at Camp Leakey 40 years ago.

Can’t see the video? Click here to view online.

These are some amazing, dedicated people doing fascinating work. Get more behind-the-scenes goodness in the other pre-release webisodes!

Behind-The-Scenes Webisodes!
Click to watch: Borneo | Coming Home to Tsavo | Camp Leakey

Born to be Wild 3D – Coming Soon to IMAX!

Sumatran Orang-utan
Creative Commons License photo credit: Chester Zoo

Who doesn’t love animals? Here at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, we not only love animals, we relish the chance to share that love with our visitors. What better way than to announce an upcoming 3D IMAX film that follows the tale of a cute orangutan and an adorable baby elephant.

Born to be Wild 3D is an inspiring story of love, dedication and the remarkable bond between humans and animals. This film documents orphaned orangutans and elephants and the extraordinary people who rescue and raise them—saving endangered species one life at a time.

Animal Innocence.
Creative Commons License photo credit: matrianklw

Stunningly captured in IMAX 3D, Born to be Wild 3D is a heartwarming adventure transporting moviegoers into the lush rainforests of Borneo with world-renowned primatologist Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas, and across the rugged Kenyan savannah with celebrated elephant authority Dame Daphne Sheldrick, as they and their teams rescue, rehabilitate and return these incredible animals back to the wild.

This film is narrated by Academy-Award® winner Morgan Freeman.

Adorable animals?
Check!

Interacting with Humans?
Check!

Soothing voice of Morgan Freeman narrating?
Check!

On a six story tall IMAX screen in 3D?
Check, check, and check!

Get excited for Born to be Wild 3D, swinging into the Wortham IMAX Theatre May 27, 2011

Can’t see the video? Click here.