Tag Archives: museum

With what porpoise?

“No wise fish would go anywhere without a porpoise.”

It only grinned a little wider.“Come, it’s pleased so far,” thought Alice, and she went on:
   “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.“—so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if only you walk long enough.”

Lewis Carroll, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”

Terror of the South

museum2The last time my brother Jacob spent the weekend with us Kristen and I took him to the North Carolina Museum of History, where we could spend all day studying photographs and learning about how people lived in our state years ago. Jacob enjoyed the museum for a few minutes here and there — a new pirate exhibit and the complete gun-making workshop of Dunn-native “Carbine” Williams caught his interest — but for the most part, he dutifully followed us around and told us how bored he was. We promised the next time he stayed with us we would go to the more kid-friendly Museum of Natural Science. We got the opportunity last weekend.

I visited the science museum often as a child when my dad would take me and my younger brothers strolling through on Saturdays while my mom was at work. At that time, the coolest things in the museum were a fake T-Rex skull in the foyer and an impressive blue whale skeleton that hung high overhead in its own exhibit hall. Years ago the museum underwent a major renovation, and though I had stepped in from time to time, I hadn’t taken the opportunity to really soak it all up before.


Obviously bored with his audience, this guy made his own perfectly sized hammock to chill out in.

One of the highlights of the museum is a prominent exhibit hall with a fully-developed dinosaur display. The old T-Rex model still greets guests as they walk up the stairs, but the star of the show is a full size display of Acrocanthosaurus. The dinosaur supposedly lived 45 million years before the first Tyrannosaur arrived on the scene. More importantly, “Acro” as he’s affectionally called at the museum, lived in the southern states from Texas to Maryland (including North Carolina) while his larger, younger and better-known brethren hung out on the West Coast.

Acro circling his prey.

Acro circling his prey.

The skeleton at the museum in Raleigh is only 53 percent authentic, with the rest being cast models of bone. Still, this is the most complete Acro remains found to date. Only four sets of Acro bones have ever been found, making this dinosaur one of the rarest known to science. At just 40 feet long, Acro doesn’t have the size of T-Rex, but he made up for it with an aggression all his own. While T-Rex is largely believed to be a scavenger, Acro was taking on dinos twice his size to grab a bite of lunch.

As strongly as I believe our state needs to keep a better grasp of how they spend money and reign in some dollars that aren’t being used in the best way, I am very proud to have such fine museums in our capital city. These projects represent a great use of state funds because they are offered to the benefit of everyone, everyday, free of charge. Most of the exhibits, including the $3 million Acro skelton, are funded through donations and grants from companies and individuals. The state keeps the doors open, the lights on and the payroll staffed with experts who can educate the citizenry — school children, seniors and guys like me who just like to know stuff — whenever they take the time to ask.

An open rainforest exhibit, staffed by teenaged-volunteers, is planted on the top floor the museum and is free and open to the public. A similar attraction costs tourist $13 each in Myrtle Beach before business dropped off and it shut down.

An open rainforest exhibit, staffed by teenaged-volunteers, is planted on the top floor of the museum and is free and open to the public. A similar attraction cost tourists $13 each in Myrtle Beach before business dropped off and it shut down.

Kristen and Acro

Kristen and Acro

Museum vs. Fourth Graders

airborne-postFriday all of the fourth grade classes at my wife’s school took a field trip to the Airborne & Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville. I went along as a chaperon. While I’m always up for a visit to a good museum, I was worried it would be difficult to keep the students interested and occupied for the two hours we were going to be there. In my experience, military history museums in general are targeted only at people who already have a strong interest in the subject, and displays are typically pretty lackluster. Boy was I wrong.

I would recommend the museum to anyone looking for something cool to do within 100 miles of Fayetteville. If you’re a military or technology buff, it’s definitely worth traveling even further. The main exhibition hall features exhibits arranged in chronological order, beginning with the army’s first attempt at deploying airborne troops and ending with an awesome display of Operation Iraqi Freedom. All of the displays are very interactive and constantly being updated. (While we were there, one exhibit hall was closed while a new feature on dessert guerrilla warfare and the war on terror was being finished.) A changeable-exhibit hall told the story of the United States’ operations in France during World War I — an area of history often overlooked in favor of the more dramatic conflict that occurred 20 years later. The museum also houses a full size movie theater with a variety of free shows and a separate theater set up as a flight simulator.

Still, the best asset the museum has is obviously its volunteer staff: Retired military personnel, all experts in their subject area and all passionate about sharing their very real experiences.

Check it out.

Most of my time was occupied with keeping my group of adolescents together and answering — or teaching them how to use a museum to answer — the endless barrage of questions their minds blasted out. I did manage to snap a few pictures though.
Click the image below to see more.