Being one of the largest cities in the United States, Houston is home to several world class museums, which I’ve only just begun to explore. Drawn to their new Hall of Ancient Egypt, I decided to make the main campus of the Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) the first on my city agenda.
Comprised of four levels, HMNS features a number of fascinating and interactive exhibits, the Burke Baker Planetarium and the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre, with a number of shows daily. I began my explorations on the third level in the dark Hall of Ancient Egypt. This is a stunning exhibition featuring more than 500 artifacts that are thousands of years old. On display are a variety of elements of ancient Egyptian life, including tools, statuettes and mummies.
Downstairs I found myself among the fossils in the Morian Hall of Paleontology. Dwarfed by the tremendous skeletons of creatures that once roamed the earth, I enjoyed the way they were displayed as if in motion. The hall is as long as a football field and contains dozens of dinosaurs and ancient mammals. Afterwards I wandered through the Wiess Energy Hall, devoted to the byproducts of past organic life. This is a very modern educational exhibit that explores all aspects of something that is very native to Houston: the oil and gas industry.
After something a bit more glamorous, I checked out Fabergé: A Brilliant Vision next, which features an extremely diverse collection of these exquisite creations. I never knew that Fabergé objects were created for the Russian Imperial Court or that the collection included pieces beyond just the well-known eggs. Stunning evening bags, opera glasses, perfume bottles and other items carried by the rich and famous are on display here.
I spent the rest of my time taking in two shows. The first took me under the domed screen of the planetarium where I watched Impact Earth, which ponders the impact of an asteroid that crashed into North America many years ago. To think about possibilities like this and what could happen really put things in perspective. On Friday April 13th, 2029, a massive asteroid will pass alarmingly close to our planet (but won’t hit us). The film, however, discusses the possibilities of what could happen should one actually hit us.
I also enjoyed The Great White Shark 3D in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre, which talks about our fascination with and condemnation of these amazing creatures. This was a beautifully shot movie that takes viewers underwater and into the mind of the great white.
Of course, it’s always impossible to see everything. I missed a few exhibits including the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals, the Lester & Sue Smith Gem Vault and the presentation of Jerusalem 3D. I’m kicking myself for somehow overlooking the Cockrell Butterfly Center, which features thousands of live butterflies in a rain forest setting, and the new Chemistry Hall was still yet to reopen when I was there (it debuts November 18th). But at least I’m left with some things to bring me back to this wonderful museum another time.
I was a guest of the Houston Museum of Natural Science but all opinions are always my own.