The Helium Time Monument in Amarillo Texas

Why yes, I’m a geek. What’s your point? It’s a statue of the Helium molecule that’s located next to a Don Harrington discovery center that was closed by the time I got there. (It closes at 4:30, on a Saturday!!!?????? This is a Science museum in a major city… WTF?)

IMG_0037
It’s a sun-dial, but it was rainy, windy and overcast

IMG_0026

fullsizeoutput_4ac2.jpeg

IMG_0347

By visiting it I learned something I had not known, Amarillo is the Helium capital of the world… who knew?

fullsizeoutput_4abf

fullsizeoutput_4ac3.jpeg

IMG_0025

Royal British Columbia Museum, Victoria Canada

This Royal BC Museum of natural and human history is 130 years old, and is located right off of the TransCanadian Highway at the western edge of the ‘tourist’ area of downtown Victoria, next door to the British Columbia Capitol building. It is a VERY good museum with interactive/experiential display, that make learning more exciting while still protecting the exhibits. I saw something with my actual eyes I never expected to ever see in my life, an actual mammoth.

img_6718
The museums displays extend beyond the building, to encompass the entire property, and all ingresses and egresses from the building; and this includes some of the doors themselves, which in some cases are beautifully carved; as such, it really is worth while to explore the entire property, and not just B-line it to the front entrance.
img_6719
img_6723
Inside the museum (assuming you came in via the front entrance), the first thing you see is the Imax theater, and the adjoining gift shop (which has some REALLY nice stuff with much BETTER prices than I saw for similar items at the local tourist shops). This included a lot of T-shirts, hiking gear, clothing, etc. There are in fact TWO gift shops, on the ground floor, so it is worth it to check both of them out. The one in the picture below is smaller, and tends to have more ‘useful’ type stuff, while the 2nd larger one has more ‘artistic’ sort of things.
img_6720
Based on my math, if you intend to go there at least three times in a year, the one-year-pass is by far the smartest buy. And since I was going to be living for a full month only a few blocks away from the museum, and expected to see it at least that many times during my stay (rainy days, etc), and maybe even take in some of their IMAX movies, I bought the pass.

The layout of the Museum is more narrow and tall, rather than low and wide, like most museums; as such in order to enter the exhibits sections of the museum (laid out on three separate floors), you need take an escalator — at which point you will be asked to show your tickets and or pass (or the elevators, available for handicapped access). This can be a bit confusing as you can easily spend a full day on just the first exhibit floor (2nd floor of building) and spend so much time there that you end up missing the other exhibits.

On the first floor, just where you exit the escalator, they have the rotating exhibition rooms. When I went it was an excellent exhibit on mammoths that really awed, over whelmed and stunned me. The first rooms taught you all about mammoths, and was very high tech and interactive and interesting.
img_6722
But the stunner, was after that room you entered a very small and very dark room which included an ACTUAL baby woolly mammoth.. they have named Zhenya.
img_6721
When you first entered the room, your eyes actually need to adjust a bit, but I assume this is to protect this oh so priceless find… which I’m actually kind of shocked they’ve allowed to go on tour.
img_3160

Seriously, I cannot overstate my excitement, delight and awe at being able to see in the flesh, an actual woolly mammoth, even if it was a tiny baby. I was completely farklemt.

(I will note, whoever was in charge of curating the display was not particularly careful in setting it up — look carefully at the photos and see if you can pick up the major OOPS!)

In the next room (well lit) there were more interactive displays to help teach kids about the lives of these now extinct animals
img_6724
img_6725

 

Another set of rooms was about the Natural environment of the British Colombia region, and displayed taxidermied local animals arranged into impressively ‘simulated natural’ settings — remarkably natural, some of them even included moving water.

img_6726
this was followed by a very Steampunk/ Jules Verne, ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea type esthetic, showing off the underwater life of the area.
img_3222

 

Another section of the museum is devoted to the human history of Victoria, as a seaport town belonging to the British

img_3578

Their collection includes George Vancouver’s Uniform, among others

img_6727

AND — and I thought this was really cool, the “actual” dagger (or at least it’s believed to be) that was used to kill the famous explorer, James Cook.
img_4738

Alongside these displays is life size “walk through” of the dock, and of a section of a British Sailing ship, with all the appropriate sounds (and some smells) piped in.

img_6728

This is followed by a small section devoted to the Gold Rush that help make the navel base /trading post into a city, where you can try your hand at sifting gold

(What the sign says: “Wig and Case: within a year of the rush to the gold fields in 1858, British law was imposed. As head of teh law enforcement, Judge Matthew Baillie Begbie was responsible for justice … The wig was just one of the many effects used by the judiciary to impress upon the sometimes rebellious gold rushers that British justice was paramount.”)

In another section of the museum there is a reconstruction of what Victoria looked like back in time, that is again, completely lifesize. You can walk into stores, go into the movie theater and watch a black and white movie, or walk through a hotel and see the rooms.

img_6729
IMG_6730.JPG
img_6731
And then there’s a whole section of the museum devoted to the First Nations (Canadian term for their Native American Tribes, which is gaining acceptance in the USA as well), their languages and their art.

img_3637IMG_3648.jpg

President McKinley National Memorial & Library

IMG_8077

For those who are weak on their presidential history, McKinley was the 25th President, and was shot six months into his second term, in 1901, by Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist (he didn’t think we should have any sort of government); McKinley is probably best remembered for, by the simple act of dying, making way for Teddy Roosevelt — which might not be fair to McKinley who was actually a fairly effective president (depending on how you feel about US expansionism/colonialism), but is none the less an accurate statement.

IMG_8074

As mausoleums  go, this is a pretty impressive one, and doubles as a popular place to work out, a phenomena that I seriously doubt the folks who designed and built it had in mind. While there I saw any number of ‘dressed to work out’ women and some men doing the steps. I even saw one class of orange clad 2nd graders assigned by their teacher to run up the stairs as a way of calming them down after a long bus ride, before entering the presidential library/museum portion of the memorial.

 

IMG_8084

Next door to the mausoleum is a really impressive little museum (completed in 1964) that is most definitely worth a visit. It kind of reminds me of a miniature version of Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. There’a small planetarium (because of all the school kids I was lucky enough to see a light show on a week day), a gallery devoted to the McKinley’s that shows furniture and various items that belonged to the and includes an animatronic President so good that I’m thinking they may have gone to Disney for his production.

IMG_8105 IMG_8098

There is also a whole wing dedicated to recreating a small town of McKinley’s era, with various shops, a post office, a doctor’s office, a dentist, etc., which is in and of itself worth the price of admission, etc., and that’s just on the top floor. I consider this to be part of the living museum trend, even though none of the ‘buildings’ are saved historic ones.

 

The basement is devoted to dinosaurs, but I barely got to see it. There is in fact way more thing to do that I made time for because I wanted to make sure I was able to fit in a visit to the first ladies museum on the other side of town before it closed. If I go to Canton again, which I intend to, I will devote a whole afternoon to this museum.