Seven days a week, the Houston Museum of Natural Science cultivates knowledge with interactive exhibits that shuttle minds into such far-flung realms as tropical rainforests and outer space. Permanent exhibits house everything from the skeletons of brachiosauruses in the recently expanded Morian Hall of Paleontology to artifacts from ancient Egypt and the Americas. Housed inside three stories of glass, the museum's butterfly habitat teems with more than 1,500 winged wonders from around the globe, which frolic around a 50-foot waterfall, and flutter through exotic plants. Visitors can also gaze skyward in the Burke Baker Planetarium, which casts more than 10 daily shows with curve-mirror projection technology. Eyes marvel at the planetarium's 30'x18' full-dome digital theater, capable of transporting families to the aurora borealis in the Arctic Circle or to the nougat-flavored center of a black hole.
Jutting above the street, the modernist lines of Rafael Moneo's Audrey Jones Beck Building echo the eclectic collection found within. Under sky openings that let in natural light and the bitter gazes of pigeons who can?t seem to get their work shown, visitors meander through galleries that span the breadth of human artistry, from ancient sculpture to modern painting. Noteworthy works from the more than 64,000 pieces include Pablo Picasso's colorful cubist Two Women in Front of a Window, Edgar Degas's achingly expressionistic Woman Drying Herself, and an untitled sketch by Jackson Pollock that shows his wild, abstract genius evolving toward his celebrated drip paintings. A treasure trove of cultural artifacts from Africa, Asia, and the Americas expands the museum?s scope and transports visitors back in time as they gaze on a palpably pensive ceramic ballplayer from Mexico's Classic Veracruz culture or a life-size royal head forged from copper for a Nigerian royal court.
Designed by award-winning architect Gunnar Birkerts, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston's stainless steel building safeguards a multitude of work designed to intellectual engage viewers and invoke complex reactions. The museum's two galleries, the Brown Foundation Gallery and the Zilkha Gallery, collectively host 8?10 free exhibitions every year.
The Brown Foundation spotlights work by internationally renowned artists and pieces organized around themes; past exhibits include a Kiki Smith survey and a showcase of performance art by black artists. The Zilkha, meanwhile, hosts the museum's Perspective Series, which gathers the work of emerging artists. The museum's Teen Council curates a biyearly edition of Perspectives, unveiling work by young, Houston-area artists that mine for deeper feelings than the normal teenage angst toward parents, teachers, and singing animatronic bears. The Teen Council also contributes to the museum's numerous programs, which include lectures and discussions for each show, as well as Musiqa concerts based on each Brown Foundation Gallery exhibition.
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. And there's the Feature Change, which can digitally alter one's image to a different gender or ethnicity.
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.
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.