HMNS Weekly Happenings:

 

 

Mummies are coming!

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Our new special exhibit, Mummies of the World, opens Friday, September 23 for members and noon on Saturday, September 24 for the public!

GET TICKETS HERE

Described as “fascinating, intriguing, and inspiring,” by NBC, “absolutely extraordinary,” by NPR and “a must see,” by FOX TV, Mummies of the World will instill a sense of curiosity and wonder in each and every visitor.

Come face to face with the largest exhibition of real mummies and related artifacts ever assembled. The exhibit provides a window into the lives of ancient people from every region of the world including Europe, South America and Ancient Egypt, offering unprecedented insights into past cultures and civilizations. With over 1.5 million nationwide visitors experiencing Mummies of the World to date, the display at The Houston Museum of Natural Science is the regional premiere!

Embark on a journey into the extraordinary world of mummies and mummification. Through modern science, engaging interactive and multi-media exhibits featuring 3-D animation, explore how mummies are created, where they come from and who they were. Using state-of-the-art scientific methodology, discover how modern science enables researchers to study mummies through innovative and non-invasive ways, offering unprecedented insights into past cultures and civilizations.

What secrets do mummies hold about the past? What clues do they bring us for the future? A journey awaits as we unravel their mysteries.

 

 

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Lecture – Maya Ritual Secrets Revealed by Tomás Gallareta

One can find images of ritual and human sacrifice at many Maya sites. Among these are the Nunnery Quadrangle at Uxmal, the ballcourt, Castillo, Sacred Cenote and the Temple of the Warriors at Chichén Itzá. These depictions shed light on ancient Maya customs surrounding royal succession, and decisions to go to war. Dr. Tomás Gallareta Negrón will explain how Maya ritual is not dead, as shamanism still being practiced today.

This program is co-sponsored by AIA, Houston Society with support from the Mexican Consulate General of Houston and BBVA Compass.

September 20, at 6:30pm

Tickets $18, Members $12.

 

Coming Soon!

 

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Lecture – The Gettysburg Event by Brian Matthew Jordan and Ed W. Clark

Recognized as having the most casualties of any other engagement, the Battle of Gettysburg is noted as the turning point of Civil War in 1863. Traditional Civil War histories have concluded in 1865, now Dr. Brian Jordan has mined previously untapped archives—soldiers’ anguished letters and diaries, and gruesome medical reports—to trace a Union regiment’s shocking transition from the battlefield to the home front.

Instead of being welcomed home as heroes, these veterans—tending rotting wounds, battling alcoholism, campaigning for paltry pensions—tragically realized that they stood as unwelcome reminders to a new America eager to heal, forget and embrace the freewheeling bounty of the Gilded Age.

Also speaking this evening will be Ed W. Clark, Superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park, who will address the current state of affairs at Gettysburg. A book signing of Dr. Jordan’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated book “Marching Home: Union Veterans and Their Unending Civil War” will follow the lecture.

This program is co-sponsored by the Gettysburg Foundation.

September 27, at 6:30 pm

Tickets $18, Members $1

 

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Cultural Feast – Oktoberfest: The History and Science of Beer
In 1810, King Ludwig I of Bavaria proclaimed that the last sixteen days of September, ending with the first full weekend in October, should be set aside for feasting and beer drinking. To commemorate this tradition, join HMNS at St. Arnold Brewing Co. for the history and science of beer making. Tour St. Arnold³ production facility with founder Brock Wagner and special guest Scott Birdwell of DeFalco’s Home Wine and Beer. Drink your fill of brew and enjoy Bavarian pretzels and sausage.

Hosted at St. Arnold Brewing Company. 21 and up only.

Tickets $59, Members $49

Advance ticket purchase is required by September 25. No refunds will be made 72 hours before the event, however tickets can be transferred to another individual. Please notify webmaster@hmns.org with your name, transaction number, and name of the guests using your tickets.

Art and the Animal: The Society of Animal Artists 56th Annual Members Exhibition at HMNS

Matthew Hillier – “Snowy In The Shallows”

Matthew Hillier – “Snowy In The Shallows”

Opening soon at HMNS –  Art and the Animal: The Society of Animal Artists 56th Annual Members Exhibition

September 23, 2016 – January 1, 2017

The Society of Animal Artists (SAA), founded in 1960, is devoted to promoting excellence in the artistic portrayal of the creatures sharing our planet, and to the education of the public through art exhibitions, informative seminars, lectures and teaching demonstrations.

Barn owl by Simon Gudgeon, Life size, bronze and mild steel, limited edition of 12

Barn owl by Simon Gudgeon, Life size, bronze and mild steel, limited edition of 12

It is the mission of the Society of Animal Artists (SAA) to educate the public on the fact that the genre of animal art is no different than the various art forms which focus on the human figure, landscape, still life, etc. All living creatures are acceptable as subject matter: birds, mammals, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, insects, etc. – both wild and domestic.

Patricia Pepin – “Quietude”

Patricia Pepin – “Quietude”

The Society simply requires that they be depicted correctly, utilizing fine art techniques. All fine art mediums are acceptable: acrylics, oils, watercolor (both opaque and transparent), graphite, pen and ink, scratchboard, ceramic, wood, stone, bronze, etc.

Carrie Cook – “On the Inside Looking Out”

Carrie Cook – “On the Inside Looking Out”

Admission to this exhibit is included with entrance to the permanent exhibit halls.

 

Home Is Where The Heart Is

They say, “home is where the heart is”, and in my case that is true. However, home is also where you say things like, “Don’t kill that Black Widow. I need it…,” or “So………do you have any plans for that dead armadillo?

My parents live on a working ranch, complete with cows and buzzards, hay rakes and snakes. This affords me the opportunity, after chores are done and frankly sometimes during, to go science-ing.

Here’s everyone getting ready for vaccinations and the bovine version of OFF!

Here’s everyone getting ready for vaccinations and the bovine version of OFF!

This last visit, when various assignments were being discussed and doled out, I jumped on the wood pile. The premise of this chore was that a gate was left open or a latch broke somewhere, allowing the cows through a fence and into the yard around the house. Cows, being kind of curious by nature, ended up everywhere. One of those wheres landed the cows between the workshop and the wood pile because the cows wanted to scratch on all those log ends sticking out. Unfortunately for my parents, a 1,400 pound cow determined to scratch an itch is no match for a metal pipe rack and stacked wood and so over it went. Fortunately for me, critters live in wood piles….

My mom’s instructions were clear: make the wood pill neat. My instructions to my nephew and my sister-in-law were also clear: don’t smash anything good. The first new friend we found was this guy.

Who has eight legs and two pedipalps and is HUGE? This guy…

Who has eight legs and two pedipalps and is HUGE? This guy…

He is some species of wolf spider and he was GIGANTIC. This guy ended up getting some soapy water thrown on him because I wanted to pin him out (and he was also terrifyingly large), but everyone else we caught got to live.

spider 2The next new friend we found was a cousin to that wolf spider. I collected her because she has this beautiful blue egg sack. When we got her back to the Museum and put her in her new apartment, she was hungry! Several snacks later, she settled down under some leaves for a nap. (Update: She is loving living at the Museum! She has rearranged the furniture and plumped up a bit in anticipation of the arrival of her brood. Wolf spiders are great moms, so we will take some pictures of her and the fam once they arrive!)

black widowNow about the time I said, “Man, I’m super bummed we haven’t found any black widows,” this little lady showed up. I was super excited because we have been making some efforts to collect for an upcoming exhibit called Death by Natural Causes. She is a beautiful, fully grown Latrodectus mactans. How can you tell that she is fully grown? The juveniles have a red strip that runs down the back. When the spiders molt, the strip gets shorter and shorter until all you have is the tell-tale hour glass.

spider 3The next log I picked up, after scooping up the Black Widow, had this sweet little girl on it. What’s that you say? It’s a Brown Recluse? Why, yes it is. Both the Brown Recluse and the Black Widow have a bad reputation. Yes… both can potentially cause humans some problems, but they will also go above and beyond to avoid people if at all possible. Generally, the only time they bite is if they get pinned by a finger or arm or foot and are trying to defend themselves. You be nice to them; they’ll be nice to you.
spider 4At this point, I ran out of collecting containers but the day had just begun! The next critter that crawled out from under a log was this little Triatoma sanguisuga. Commonly known as kissing bugs, this little guys is possibly a vector for Chagas. There have been a number of studies initiated of late to keep track of Chagas transmission, but there isn’t a lot known about where it is and what it is infecting because most states don’t require anyone to keep track of the confirmed human cases.

The fastest new friend we made, and the only one we didn’t collect because I didn’t have the right parts with me, was this little guy. He was at the bottom of the pile eating all the critters we were trying to collect. He zipped out and under the rack when we disturbed the log he was under. My parents have lived on their ranch for about 15 years. In that time I have only seen four snakes: One was the little ribbon snake below, the second was a smaller version of this ribbon snake we saw the same day under a pile of hay, the third was a juvenile water moccasin sunning in the tank and the fourth was a coach whip. Conclusion: Snakes are good at hide and seek.

spider 5Later that day, after chores were done, we were sitting on the back porch with a Lone Star to cool off and this friend stopped by for a visit. Cicada nymph molts are generally what people know or see of Cicadas in Texas, although you are probably familiar with the noises they make as well. You will find the molts attached to tree bark or the brick of your house, split down the back. During their two to five-year life span, these cicadas spend just a couple months in the form you see in the picture. They are big but they are also 0% harmful to humans. They just want to chill out with you while you share a beer.

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Also on the porch wanting to join the party? This female ox beetle. How can you tell it is female? The guys have these cool horns on their thorax that make them look like little beetle-y triceratops. Ox beetles live just a couple of months and are active during the summer. Their main job is recycling plant matter into compost, but that mostly happens in the larval form when they are just little, white, C-shaped grubs. They do fly in the adult form and, while it can be a little scary to unexpectedly find a big, brown, two-inch bug all up in your business, this guy is not harmful to humans at all. If you see one out, it is probably just cruising for a rotten log to lay some eggs.

ox beetle

The last critter of the day was this armadillo who met with an untimely death the night before when he ended up with the pool. As part of the shady, after chore discussions I asked my dad what he planned on doing with that armadillo. Ya know… because he had dibs. He indicated that his actual plan involved putting it in the woods to be recycled by the decomposers. I asked if I could have it for our education collections.

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A little known fact, or at least something that most folks don’t think very hard about, is that all the specimens we use for teaching have to come from someplace and generally, you can’t get a pinned butterfly or a bobcat skull at Wal-mart. This being the case, we have to make or find all of our specimens for the teaching collection. Sometimes this is reeeaaalllly unpleasant.

It was the armadillo that causes my mom to question all of her life choices that led me to this point my life and wonder what she had done wrong. After dinner I hopped up to go skin the armadillo before it got dark. There was a lot of care taken on my part to keep clean because armadillos are known to carry leprosy. They are vectors for leprosy because armadillos and humans are about the same constant temperature and so the leprosy can snuggle right in and get comfy. People think that armadillos are giving leprosy to humans, but in reality humans probably gave it to them originally. You never see an armadillo exhibiting the signs of leprosy because they only live a short while. Two other fun facts about armadillos, the Aztecs called them āyōtōchtli, which translates to “turtle rabbit”; and, there are 21 extant species of armadillo that range from 5 to 59 inches long and 3 ounces to 120 pounds.

So, what do we do with all this stuff? It depends on the stuff. Most of these animals will get used in our live animal programs, labs, and summer camps. For those animals that are dead, or die after a long life of cricket pops and mealworm snacks, we try to preserve them for our educational collections. They may get used in the same programs, like the labs and the camps, but they also get put on display inside the classrooms, or for the special few, inside the Cabinet of Curiosities for you to come check out. So, if you do get the opportunity to check out some of our educational specimens, please be careful with them! It takes a couple of months to find, collect and/or make each one!

Curious Late Nights at HMNS – The Mystery of Imperato’s Lost Tablet

Disclaimer: This fictional story was written by Julia Russell in Youth Education Programs.

Hello everyone,

My name is Julia, and it’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since I started my research as a graduate student at HMNS. It really seems like it was just yesterday…

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I’ve loved museums since I was a child. I was always fascinated by the huge and impressive collections museums were able to acquire. It’s a curiosity of mine that has never fully disappeared. Being a mini-museum connoisseur growing up, I had many of my own collections. I had the traditional stamp collection. I had the cumbersome rock collection. (Gathering new specimens for my collection probably wasn’t the highlight of our family vacations for my parents.) I eventually moved on to collecting books about my two favorite topics: sharks and dinosaurs. This also led to a lot of “excavations” in my backyard. I was fairly unsympathetic about destroying the landscape of our backyard when I was on a search to uncover the greatest dinosaur fossil ever found. I never actually found it, but I did triumphantly reassure my dad that the numerous holes in the backyard were in the name of science and discovery!

Eventually, I decided to study history and biology at the University of Fibonacci. Throughout my time as an undergraduate student, I tried to find career paths that would let me combine my dual interests in the humanities and the hard sciences. The one place I could bring these two passions together? A museum! In keeping with my childhood, I continued to marvel at the world’s museums and their Impressionist paintings, ancient Greek pottery, dazzling gems and minerals, mummies, fossils, and so much more. The one question that began to echo through my mind as I visited these institutions: why do we collect? What drives people to create collections? Is it human nature to collect? Since four years of undergraduate work wasn’t nearly enough time to satisfy these questions, I decided to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Noneya to explore the art of collecting a little further.

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To better understand why, I had to start with when. At what point in our history did we start collecting? If I could find a starting point, I had a better chance of understanding the why. As it turns out, the practice of collecting is as old as humans themselves. The concept of collecting in an effort to better understand the natural world around us seems to be an inherent part of our human nature. In all of my studies, there was one particular collection that struck me: the collection of Ferrante Imperato.

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Like most people, I’m intrigued by the unknown. I think that’s what draws me to Imperato and his collection. We don’t know much about this…apothecary? Or was he an alchemist? I decided to make Imperato and his cabinet of curiosities, a kind of precursor to the natural history museums of today, the focus of my graduate thesis. Enter HMNS.

I came to HMNS after hearing that they were bringing Ferrante Imperato’s collection over from Naples, Italy. They were going to have his actual collection. It was a researcher’s dream. I reached out to HMNS and began studying the numerous objects and texts left behind by Ferrante and his son, Francesco.  

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I combed through original texts and flexed my semi-fluent Italian language muscles. I was particularly entranced by Imperato’s Dell’Historia Naturale from 1599. This engraved text outlines Imperato’s natural history collection, making it one of the first texts to do so. While I was interested in the extensive catalog of his collection and his reasons for collecting, I couldn’t help but notice some strange references throughout his texts. The word tesoro appears several times in Imperato’s writings. Tesoro is the Italian word for “treasure.” Of course, since Ferrante Imperato was an enthusiastic collector, I assumed he was referring to his collection as a treasure. As an 8-year-old, I frequently boasted about my collections of “treasures” though my treasures mostly consisted of dirt clods from my backyard excavations that I had yet to “prep out” as I explained to my parents. However, as I continued to read Imperato’s texts, I came to realize he wasn’t referring to his entire collection as a “treasure.” He was referring to a single object, a tablet.

I’m a firm believer that Ferrante Imperato was an alchemist as well as an apothecary. In my quest to understand what drives people to collect, it seems that Imperato was determined to use his collection to find natural remedies for a variety of ailments. He also frequently discussed the transformation of matter, a concept near and dear to alchemists’ hearts. Could this tablet be part of Imperato’s work as an alchemist? And more importantly, could this object be in the very Cabinet of Curiosities I’m studying right now?

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While I love talking about my research and the topic of my thesis, as any graduate student does (seriously, I’ll talk about it for hours), I really wanted to write this guest blog to ask for help. I need to solve the mystery of this tablet. I don’t have much longer to work with the collection before my thesis is due and my time at HMNS is up! So here I am, reaching out to the HMNS community for help. Can you unlock the secrets and solve the riddles of Ferrante Imperato’s Cabinet of Curiosities before it’s too late?

If your group is interested in helping Julia solve the mystery of Imperato’s lost tablet, email education@hmns.org for more information on this special Curious Late Night program.