Usually on my weekends off work, I drive to Denton, Texas, where I spend a little time with my dad. Over the course of a few months, we’ve developed a routine of walking around the mall, watching a movie, and then eating at a nearby Chinese buffet. It’s nice, and to be completely honest with you, I was looking forward to watching ‘Lorax’ or ‘John Carter’ at the local discount theater and indulging in all-you-can-eat pork ribs. You can judge me, you’re just jealous. Fortunately, my dad was tired of Denton with its one story mall and historic downtown square. He aspired for bigger, better, and most of all, different. So last weekend we visited the cultural district of good ol’ Fort Worth, Texas.
As you may have noticed, I grew-up in Fort Worth, Texas. Go ahead, stalk me. I’d like the attention. Throughout my childhood, I’ve been exposed to a plethora of malls, movie theaters, and events that have spanned a fifty mile radius of downtown, and it’s mostly attributed to my father and his encouragement to see and do everything that the city has had to offer. And since my father moved to Denton a few years ago, he hasn’t seen a lot of the changes that has occurred except through passing glances on the way to citywide events. Fortunately, the cultural district of Fort Worth offers a variety of museums across the street from its renowned stockyard grounds. Unfortunately, the stockyard grounds were busy last weekend. Along with accommodating an equestrian event, the coliseum hosted several graduations that were staggered throughout the day, and the museums were bustling with kids, families, and young adults itching to be cultured.
I have fond memories of the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, and as soon as my sister came into town, we immediately visited the museum after its remodeling in 2009. It’s been a few years since my dad has been inside, and the facility has been much improved with spacious hallways, lecture halls, and classrooms for kids to learn and flourish. I’m aware the museum’s primarily meant for children, but if you keep an open mind, you can still have fun and learn something too.
Please and Thanks. -Ryan
Across from the main entrance lies the Innovation Gallery. Recently, I’ve been playing a game called Psychonauts, and it’s about a boy who can explore the surreal subconscious of his teachers and companions. And in the best possible way, I hope the inner workings of a child’s mind resembles the Innovation Gallery. Along the gallery’s main hallway, glass rooms encompassed centers where kids could create anything from illuminated drawings to elaborate Rube Goldberg contraptions. The exhibit was hyphened by a section devoted to aircrafts where kids could create different airplanes and launch them on an air propelled launcher. Also, the section included paper cups to create pine wheels that you could float inside vertical wind tunnels, fond childhood memories.
Portion of the chandelier in the Innovation Gallery. I didn't take the picture,
but I swear it looked the same way.
Tucked in the corner of the museum sat the mandatory dinosaur exhibit. Seriously, it’s not a science museum unless they have a giant brontosaurus or tyrannosaurus skeleton. I imagine every museum across the nation has a heated debate whether to have a brontosaurus or tyrannosaurus skeleton; everyone picks sides, families and friends are divided, and the final decision is always controversial. Fort Worth chose team brontosaurus, and I know brontosaurus aren’t considered real dinosaurs anymore, but I’m too old to learn new things. It was a nice exhibit, but I thought it was a little small. Of course, I’m a boy, and I’m bias toward dinosaurs.
Me: Apparently triceratops didn’t exist either; that means two fifths of
‘The Land before Times’ cast didn’t even exist…
‘The Land before Times’ cast didn’t even exist…
You: I don’t want to disappoint you, but talking dinosaurs probably didn’t exist either.
One of the newer exhibits was Energy Blast, and it begins with a 4D film about the history of the universe and the justification for drilling for natural gas. It’s an ambitious short film. Essentially, every 4D film equates to 3D glasses and water spraying into your face. Get ready, it’s the next dimension. Since I’ve previously seen the film, I knew water was about to spray into my face, and I flinched every time we approached any giant bodies of water. Sprays aside, I liked the film, and it was very entertaining. After the film, the side doors opened, and we were ushered into the energy exhibit with a miniature (and still gigantic) natural gas drill as its center piece. The exhibit was informative, but it felt a little bias toward drilling instead of other alternative energy sources. Sure, there was a diorama for other forms of energy sources including solar and wind, but considering that the film and the exhibit's center piece focused on natural gas, it felt a little underwhelming.
Upstairs, the museum had four exhibit rooms: the planetarium, a cattle raising exhibit, and two special exhibits. Currently, the two special exhibits were grossology and risky jobs. And to be completely honest, I was sorely disappointed with both of them.
As a mid-twenty year old college graduate, I am fully aware that I'm not part of the museum's target demographic, but I feel like they missed the potential of grossology. While I waited for my dad near the exhibit room, I was genuinely excited. From my previous microbiology and parasitology courses, I've seen some really gross stuff. I was expecting to see bacteria growing on presumably sterile places like food and surgical equipment and infectious parasites that buried into your feet or wiggled into your eyeball while you slept. There were going to be kids screaming and traumatized for life, it was going to be great. Unfortunately, the museum chose a different route. Through the winding corridors, the museum displayed interactive stations that pertained to 'gross' bodily fluids. There was an animatronic faucet with snot hanging from its nose, a small to large intestine slide, and a game show style quiz on urine. There was even a station where kids used air cannons to shoot tennis balls into a nose shaped target to display the effects of sneezing, although I'm pretty sure that's the complete opposite of sneezing. I get it, the exhibit’s meant for children, but it was clearly a case where the museum tailored to the children instead making any real attempt to educate them. I highly doubt a lot of kids thought a running nose was disgusting, especially since a few of them wiped their dripping nose with their hands and continued climbing up the slide.** Trust me, they didn't have a care in the world. Sure, there were fun facts scattered across the walls, but they were primarily there to remind parents that they were still in a museum. Essentially, it was a science themed play center. At the very least, the museum could have made an attempt to emphasize the importance of hygiene by displaying how many bacteria colonies grew on public doors, buttons, and shared toys. I'm sure if you swabbed any of the stations, you'd be way more grossed out by the amount of bacteria colonies on the equipment than any of the displayed 'fun facts.' Keep in mind, it looked like the kids were having fun and maybe that's all that counts.
The risky jobs exhibit had less interactive sections and more descriptions about dangerous jobs, but it was ultimately forgettable. Sorry, but it was very unimpressive list of stereotypical jobs like construction workers, firefighters, and medieval knights. They didn’t even mention the risk of the plague. I thought it would have been interesting if they mentioned less predictable risky jobs based on stress; they could have had statistics on the amount of strokes and heart attacks that occur with emergency room nurses, doctors, or lawyers. I don’t know, I guess it lacks sex appeal.
We didn’t get tickets for the planetarium, but I couldn’t include this picture if I didn’t mention it.
Next, we visited the permanent cattle raising exhibit, and when it comes right down to it, I’m pretty sure most science and history museums don’t have a cattle raising exhibit. You’re missing out. Fort Worth has had a very rich and proud history associated with the cattle drive and all things western. Due to its location, Fort Worth has always been a rail road center piece and it’s claimed to be where the first indoor rodeo was conducted. It’s kind of a big deal; we have the national cowgirl museum within skipping distance of the science and history museum. Past the stuffed cattle and computer simulated cattle drive, where kids can literally pretend to ride a cotton horse back in front of a television full of animated open pastures, the museum displayed a variety of barbwire twines, boot spurs, and a ceiling full of branding irons. It’s great and very informative with a short film about the ups and downs of the beef market in the early 1920’s and a room devoted to displaying the many different uses of the cow from food to pharmaceutical needs. It was a little weird that they didn’t mention that most cattle are subjected to hormone enhancement drugs, but I still felt like eating a Big Mac afterwards.
I’m going out of chronological order, but lastly, we went to the gift shop. First and foremost, museum gift shops are amazing. They’re the only place where you can simultaneously buy freeze dried ice cream, cute bacteria plushies, and element themed shot glasses. It’s great, and the Fort Worth Science and History Museum even has a dinosaur themed slide. They also have science books and stuff.
It might sound like I’ve been hypercritical of the science museum throughout this post, but I really love science museums and I think they’re crucial for children to develop their curiosity. The main objective of science museums shouldn’t be to teach children everything there’s to know about science, but they should spark an interest and nurture an un-tampered mind. Science museums should tell kids, ‘Here’s what we know, and here’s everything left to be discover.’
Wait, there’s more.
After we left the science museum, we walked across the street and visited the Amon Carter Museum. It’s free, and they have air condition. Also, there’s art and stuff. Whenever I’m in an art museum, I’m reminded of when I went to the San Antonio Art Museum with a friend last summer. And although we originally strolled through the hallways and read a few of the descriptions, we eventually resorted to making preposterous interpretations of modern oil paintings and daring each other to touch really, really old things. Seriously, there were hundreds of art work in the San Antonio Art Museum, and the only ones we mutually enjoyed were the landscapes. The Amon Carter is nice because they have collections from early American artists and they primarily pertained to landscapes, still life, and romanticized versions of the Wild West. There’s also a section devoted to metal work, and they have a variety of different sculptures on display and provide a detailed step-by-step instruction to forming sculptures. It was great, informative, and thoroughly enjoyable.
Amon Carter Museum. I'm just speculating, but there's a good change someone
considered suing the museum before they put up that sign.
And although we were tired and slightly hungry, we walked down the hill and visited the world renowned Kimbell Art Museum. Unfortunately, they’re still renovating the area, but we were still able to view the permanent collection, which is open to the public. Even though I’ve been to most of the major places in Fort Worth several times in my lifetime, I don’t recall going inside the Kimbell Art Museum. Although it’s modest with its unimposing building and small first floor lobby, it displays several of the world’s most prominent and prolific artists’ works including Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Joseph Mallord William Turner. I honestly don’t know if Joseph Mallord William Turner is famous, but everything sounds better in lists of threes. Plus, his paintings were cool. Personally, I view artwork as a visual version of poetry. Sure, you can enjoy a poem because it sounds pretty, but if you really want to appreciate it, you have to take the time and interpret the poem line-by-line and realize that every little word has a meaning and purpose. I was never an art major so it’s hard for me to appreciate every little brush stroke, but I enjoyed reading through the descriptions and realizing the circumstances behind a painting. Also, it’s interesting to think about paintings and sculptures of famous leaders and kings. They’re all forgotten, and instead of keeping their portraits because of their accomplishments and effects on the world, we keep them because a famous artist painted them. We spend so much time attempting to be remembered, and even some of the world's greatest of leaders will be remembered for a small statue with the title, ‘Statue of a head, possibly a king.’
We were famished so ate a nearby Chinese buffet.
Afterwards, we browsed through a store and then walked through Ridgmar Mall. And although there were a few closed shops, we recalled a time when they considered closing the entire mall before they opened an adjacent movie theater and the mall became a relevant hotspot for teenagers.
To a small extend, I was able to view the evolution of Fort Worth due to my father. Together, we were able to see the opening and closing of stores and expansions of malls, theaters, and citywide events. When I was growing-up, I wasn’t just cultured by the places where we visited, but I was nurtured by my father’s curiosity and willingness to expose his children to everything that he could offer.
So if you ever stumble upon this blog someday, thanks, dad. Love you.
**dramatization, but you get my point