Art can foster a sense of community and inspire social change. It is this belief that drives artists Reginald and Rhonda Adams, who founded Museum of Cultural Arts, Houston in 1999 when they noticed a lack of community participation in the arts. Using their vibrant center as a springboard, the couple and their staff have brought art programs to more than 30 public schools and 15,000 underserved youth, helping the youngsters unleash their innate creativity and heighten their social awareness. Within the museum, rotating exhibits, such as May’s Queens of Creativity Mother Earth Exhibition, carry pertinent social messages such as the importance of calling Earth’s core on Mother’s Day. Community projects such as a recent mural painting for a school and collaborations with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society help carry out the museum’s mission as a vehicle for expression.
The Heritage Society was created in 1954 as part of an effort to rescue the 19th-century Kellum-Noble House from destruction. Since its founding, the organization has taken over the operation of nine additional historic buildings, all of which have become part of a 10-acre museum complex in Sam Houston Park. At each of its buildings, the Heritage Society strives to connect guests to the past, exhibiting and celebrating the region?s diverse history in the process.
The Houston Fire Museum celebrates the blaze-battling bravery of Houston's early firefighters as well as the tools they used in their line of work. Historical exhibits such as the 1937 Chevrolet pumper truck and the 1895 Ahrens Fox horse-drawn steamer give guests a look at the earliest fire trucks. During guided tours, visitors can follow the steps of a 1950s firefighter as he responds to a call.
But the museum is more than just a history of firefighting. Guests can soak up practical fire-prevention tips and learn how to draft an escape plan for their own home. In the Junior Firehouse, kids can host birthdays, where they dress in miniature bunker coats and slide down an authentic fire station pole padded at the bottom with gym mats and a pile of friendly, furry dalmatians.
The John C. Freeman Weather Museum, which was founded by a meteorologist whose lengthy resum? includes forecasting and research for the U.S. Army Air Force and the U.S. Weather Bureau, hosts a variety of exhibits and experiences. Groups of up to 50 people explore nine exhibits devoted to various aspects of Dr. Freeman's field, either on self-guided or meteorologist-guided tours. The attractions include the WRC-TV weather studio, where guests are encouraged to create weather forecasts using interactive weather maps and green screen technology, the cyclone room which displays images of past hurricanes and computer models of possible future storms, and a tornado chamber where guests can witness and touch a tornado created in water vapor while learning how a vortex forms.
While many children learn by performing hands-on tasks, school systems have yet to figure out how to incorporate gardens, imagination workshops, and towering aqueduct mazes into their budgets. With 90,000 square feet of hands-on exhibits, the Children's Museum of Houston sparks creativity by allowing kids to explore 14 learning stations. Named one of the 12 best children's museums in the country according to Forbes.com, ranked No. 1 among the 10 best children's museums in the nation by Parents magazine, and voted Best Museum 2012 and 2013 by the Houston A-List Poll; Children's Museum of Houston encourages children to explore their curious nature with a variety of interactive exhibits. Exhibits include the interactive EcoStation, a solar-powered outdoor utopia with activities such as stream creation and leaf rubbing that inspire kids to think about environmental responsibility. At the Invention Convention workshop, kids can explore engineering possibilities with building blocks, propellers, and even basic robotics. The sprawling cityscape of Kidtropolis invites children to participate in a simulated economy. The experience requires them to earn paychecks, budget money on pretend debit cards, vote for political candidates, and learn how to obsessively check milk expiration dates at the onsite grocery store.
At the Health Museum, you are the exhibit—literally. The permanent feature You: The Exhibit lets guests explore the ins-and-outs of their own bodies and the effects of their lifestyles. There's the Body Scanner, which reveals their internal organs in real time. There's the Feature Changer, which can digitally alter one's image to a different gender or ethnicity. And there's the Age-O-Matic, which can show onlookers what they will look like in 30 years—and how that appearance will differ if they smoke or overeat.
That educational interaction is a hallmark of the museum, which aims to spark curiosity about health and the human body in visitors of all ages. The exploratory atmosphere continues in the Amazing Body Pavilion's Texas-sized organs, such as a 27-foot intestine, a walk-in brain, and an enormous eyeball. A four-chambered heart display shows how the engine of the cardiovascular system runs, and the Scream Booth lets kids measure the pitch of their shrieks. Through these signature displays, and a varied schedule of special exhibits, The Health Museum inspires guests to explore their own inner world.