The radio chatter between the Johnson Space-Center and Lunar Module echoed throughout the lobby. “One small step for man, but one giant leap for mankind.”could be heard so clearly and distinctly causing goosebumps to spread across my skin. I was finally here, at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. My visit to the museum began at the front desk where I inquired about the locations of the various exhibitions as I was already excited about the visit. Unfortunately, there were no more maps available so I had to find my way around by reading the signs. The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 and is regarded as one of the most popular museums in the United States. This museum houses about ten (10) permanent exhibitions, however, in this essay I will only be referring to my experiences from four of them that are mainly related to Geology.
The first exhibition that I visited was called, “Life in Stone.” The exquisite detail in each carving caught my attention. At first, I believed they were real toy-like artifacts until I read and realized that they were carvings from gemstones. I was blown away! These masterpieces were created by Gerd Dreher who is well-known for being the most talented carver of gemstones to have ever lived. These realistic carvings of various animals are from gemstones such as rubies, sapphires, aquamarine, topaz, and garnet, just to name a few. My favorite carving was called, “Toad sitting partially submerged in water” and this was carved from smoky quartz and rock crystals from Minas Gerais in Brazil. In the main lobby, the giant 3D model of the moon was a site to behold and it grasped my attention for a while. After which I proceeded to the Morian Hall of Paleontology on the ground level. As soon as I entered, I was amazed. Dinosaurs! These dinosaur models stood almost two feet tall and were fantastic. This exhibit told a story from the very beginning until today. The various fossils from the different time periods and the different dinosaurs were very interesting. What caught my attention the most was the chart that depicted our evolution from the very beginning to the homosapiens we are today.
The Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals was next on the agenda. I had a difficult time finding it without a map, but along this journey I encountered the Herzstein Foucault Pendulum. A museum employee explained that there was a magnet at the top which pulled the cable away from the center position as the earth basically spins beneath it and would knock the pins down. To complete a 360-degree orbit, it would take about forty-eight hours due to Houston’s latitude. The low lightning in the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals accentuated all the various precious gems. They sparkled throughout the room and each one caught my eye. They were simply beautiful. The amethyst geode demanded my attention because it was said to weigh more than 850 pounds! In the Smith Gem Vault, the gems were amazing.
It was very refreshing to see minerals such as quartz, pyrite and peridot and their crystal state that we spoke about in class right before my eyes.
Finally, I made my way to the Wiess Energy Hall which was the holy grail in my mind. Rightly so, it is exhibited on the top floor. We had just spoken about the extraction and formation of oil in class and I was excited to see the various illustrations representing such. The Wiess Energy Hall was the most interactive exhibition of them all, providing an intricate and well detailed explanation for the industry that drives Houston’s energy and revenue. I visited the Eagle Ford Shale Experience first. This process explored the process of fracking. It involved the group being shrunk to a microscopic size and being sent down into an oil well. It showed how the evolution of technology provided new means for oil extraction, from vertical drilling to directional drilling and finally fracking where liquid is injected into rocks at high pressures causing them to crack and allowing the hydrocarbons to escape. The virtual “Energy City” landscape was quite appealing. It represented the city of Houston along with parts of southeast and central Texas. This landscape essentially shows the energy flow as the city cycles through day and night-time. The ‘Geovator’ was the final experience. This simulation reproduces oil extraction and takes you back to the Cretaceous Period showing how oil was formed over the years and finally shows how oil was found.
In conclusion, my experience at the Houston Museum of Natural Science was phenomenal. Having the actual opportunity to see illustrations and live examples of concepts that were taught in class added great value to my geological experience. I would surely recommend this museum trip to anyone and I hope to return soon! I also think that visiting a museum is an important part of education and a great leisure option. If you want to have a good time, visit a museum.
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