Doing better: We heard you out, now we’ll fill you in

Hall_of_Ancient_EgyptRecently, we were featured in a Houston Press article, “10 Things the Houston Museum of Natural Science Could Do Better.” While we welcome both positive and negative feedback from our guests — from pithy tweets to local press — we now realize that we’ve been a bit remiss in filling you in on our master plan. So we thought we’d take this opportunity to share our plans with you. It may help clear up a few concerns and put some happenings here at the Museum into a “big picture” context.

You may have heard of (or visited!) the new Morian Hall of Paleontology. Or perhaps you’ve wandered the cavernous galleries inside our new Hall of Ancient Egypt. You may not realize it, but you’re visiting brand new permanent exhibition halls located in the new Dan L Duncan Family Wing that opened last summer. This expansion more than doubled the size of the Museum’s public exhibition space.

Now that the new wing is open, we are focusing the majority of our energy and resources into completely renovating and upgrading the preexisting, older permanent exhibition halls and displays.

In fact, we’ll be unveiling our newly revamped Welch Chemistry Hall in the fall of 2013. In 2014 and 2015, our Evelyn and Herbert Frensley Hall of African Wildlife and Graham Family Presentation of Ecology and Conservation Biomes and Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife will follow. Our vision is to enlarge, renovate, remodel, and refresh every permanent exhibit hall in the Museum within the next five to seven years.

We hope this explains why some seemingly small changes — while definitely important! — have taken a bit of a backseat to these gigantic renovations. As an institution, we are dedicating investments in time, energy and money to maintaining the Houston Museum of Natural Science as a world class collection of artifacts and exhibitions. Doing so will enrich the lives of our current patrons as well as future generations of nature and science lovers.

Of course, we know you’ve got questions for us. And as your hometown museum, we have answers for you. You’re always invited to send your suggestions, ideas, hopes, and dreams to us. We’re listening. Feel free to send an email to webeditor at hmns dot org if you’ve got something on your mind. We can’t guarantee immediate action on the particular request, but we can guarantee a real, live human being will respond.

Thank you so much for being the most important part of our community. We look forward to being your source for the latest and greatest in the scientific world for years to come!

Celebrate The International Year Of Chemistry!

Today’s post is by Amy Potts, Director of Adult Education at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. 

Declared by the United Nations, the International Year of Chemistry 2011 (IYC 2011) is a worldwide celebration of the achievements of chemistry and its contributions to the well-being of humankind with the goal of increasing public appreciation of chemistry in meeting world needs, interest in chemistry among young people and enthusiasm for the creative future of chemistry.

Under the unifying theme Chemistry—our life, our future, IYC 2011 initiated a range of interactive, entertaining and educational activities for all ages across the globe. Various events have been produced to demonstrate the value of chemistry in addressing the major issues of human society:  health, communications, food, water and energy.

Carbon Nanotube
Creative Commons License photo credit: ghutchis

As society has progressed, the demand for energy and the access to it has increased. 

For the most part, the world relies on the burning of fossil fuel for the production of energy. The way in which this is done must change in order to produce a supply that meets the demand in the future.  As modern technology makes more and more possible, the sociological discourse becomes more and more complex, while at the same time the circumstances become more and more urgent.

To address these issues, the T. T. Chao Symposium on Innovation, an annual event hosted in Houston by the Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF), will comprise the energy component of the United States IYC 2011 program. The Symposium is made up of three events October 25-26, 2011 hosted at the Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) and the BioScience Research Collaborative.

October 25th, Nobel Prize-winner Yuan Lee (chemistry 1986) will hold a conversation with CHF president Tom Tritton.  This conversation will explore Dr. Lee’s lifetime of accomplishment and probe into his current passion for energy alternatives.

This “History Live” conversation will be held at HMNS. 

It will be open to the public and recorded for subsequent use by a broader audience. Get tickets and information.

The following morning, Wednesday, October 26, again at HMNS, Dr. Yuan Lee will be joined by Dr. Nate Lewis of Cal Tech and Dr. Emil Jacobs of Exxon Mobil in a panel to engage about 300 high school students from across the Houston area in a Student – Laureate Forum on Energy Alternatives.  The panel will be moderated by New York Times journalist Andrew Revkin.  Schools participating in the forum are Harmony School of Science High School, Hastings High School, Lamar High School, St. John’s School, Strake Jesuit High School, and Willowridge High School.

On Wednesday evening, October 26, the venue will shift to the BioScience Research Collaborative (BRC) at Rice University where Dr. Jacobs of ExxonMobil and Dr. Craig Venter of Synthetic Genomics will discuss their alliance to research and develop biofuels from photosynthetic algae. This will be another History Live conversation with Tom Tritton. BRC is an innovative space where scientists and educators from Rice University and other Texas Medical Center institutions work together to perform leading research that encompasses a wide range of disciplines from chemistry to bioengineering and focuses largely on improving human wellness through science. Get tickets and information.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was selected by CHF as a venue for the Chao Symposium because of the Museum’s focus on science education, close relationships to the schools in the Houston area, and the excellence of the Welch Chemistry Hall and Wiess Energy Hall in demonstrating the importance of chemistry and energy in the world. HMNS is a proud participant in the IYC2011 celebration and is also co-sponsoring a lecture series with Rice University’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies starting October 18 and the popular family event Chemotion with the American Chemical Society on November 15.

Join us for these International Year of Chemistry Events at HMNS

Distinguished Lectures

Smart Water: New Technologies to Conserve Natural Resources
David Horsup, Ph.D., Chemical Engineer
Tuesday, October 18, 6:30 p.m.

Nobel Laureate Looks to Energy Alternatives
Yuan Lee, Ph.D.
Tuesday, October 25, 6:30 p.m.

Scientific Discoveries Improving Healthcare
Daniel D. Carson, Ph.D., Cindy Farach-Carson, Ph.D., John T. McDevitt, Ph.D.,
Tuesday, November 1, 6:30 p.m.

Family Festival
Tuesday, November 15, 6 – 8 p.m.
Free Admission

Cultural Feast
Shaken or Stirred? The Chemistry and History of the Cocktail
Hosted at Brennan’s
Tuesday, November 22, 2011