The Houston Museum of Natural Science, one of the most heavily attended museums in the U.S., features the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre, Burke Baker Planetarium, Cockrell Butterfly Center, permanent exhibit halls and traveling exhibitions.
The permanent exhibit halls are free on Thursdays from 2-5 p.m. during normal hours and on Thursdays from 3-6pm during the summer and holidays.
Permanent exhibits include:
Cockrell Butterfly Center
The Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Science is a stunning, living exhibit that showcases hundreds of live butterflies in a naturalistic rainforest setting. The central conservatory is a dramatic three-story glass cone filled with tropical plants and exotic butterflies. During a typical visit, one can expect to see 50 to 60 different species of the world’s largest and most colorful butterfly species, flying through the balmy air, hovering over flowers or sipping fruit juice – and occasionally, landing on visitors! The butterflies are raised on special butterfly farms in tropical Asia and North, Central, and South America, and shipped to the Center in their chrysalis form.
Moran Paleontology Hall
The Museum's Hall of Paleontology contains more than 450 fossils and fossil replicas, providing a vivid glimpse into the incredible 3.5-billion-year story of life on Earth. From the humble trilobite to the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex, this exhibit hall will bring you face-to-face with the creatures that once ruled our planet. The 30,000-square-foot hall, along with additional exhibit space and classrooms, opened in summer 2012 and represents the largest expansion in the museum's history.
Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife
The Farish Hall underwent a major renovation, reopening in fall 2014. With more than 425 specimens, representing well over 250 species on display, the hall offers the most species-rich assemblage of Texas wildlife anywhere. On display are a diverse array of species that one might encounter here in Texas, both presently and in the past. Current-day specimens like alligators, waterfowl, and white-tailed deer are on display, as are endangered and extinct species like ocelots, whooping cranes, jaguars, and the passenger pigeon. Some animals, such as a rattlesnake and skunk, actually “come to life” with robotic movements and sounds after being activated by museum visitors. A total of 7 dioramas within the exhibit replicate the natural environments that the animals lived in. Through the dioramas, and additional kiosks, patrons learn of invasive species that threaten native species and their habitats, as well as extinct and vanishing species, and aberrantly colored individual animals.
Hall of Ancient Egypt
When you have a lot of space to work with, new ideas just bubble up. In 2013, the Houston Museum of Natural Science opened its enormous Morian Paleontology Hall. Spanning the length of a football field, the hall gives a wonderful perspective of how dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures once lived and interacted with one another. But the new building also offered an opportunity to add more items to the museum's dynamic permanent collection. And one area that continues to fascinate the Western World is Ancient Egypt.
With hundreds of artifacts dating back more than 5,000 years, the hall is divided up not by time period but by theme. Five areas offer a glimpse into Egyptian life: environment, religion, politics, mummies and mummification and the discovery of ancient Egypt. HMNS partnered with museums in Boston, Germany and the United Kingdom to rotate artifacts for a more dynamic and ever-changing exhibit experience.
Weiss Energy Hall 3.0
The newly-renovated Weiss Energy Hall is full of all-new immersive excursions into the world of energy, spanning an impressive 30,000 square-feet, roughly the size of a football field. Inside, guests will find an array of galleries including Energy City, the Unconventional Hydrocarbon Revolution, Eagle Ford Shale Experience, Energy Jukebox, and more.
Welch Chemistry Hall
The Welch Chemistry Hall brings science to life through experiments, interactive displays, computer touch screens, holograms, videos and other creative installations that will help visitors gain a better understanding of chemical processes and the importance of chemistry in the everyday world. Discover how elements are the building blocks of all matter, including our own bodies, and see how chemistry innovations have changed the world.
Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals
The spectacular Cullen Hall houses the world’s finest display-quality collection of gems and minerals. See more than 750 beautifully crystallized mineral specimens, including some of the world’s rarest and most beautiful examples. Walk-around display cases and fiber-optic lighting offer an optimum view of these dazzling treasures. The nearby Eby Hall of Mineral Science explores the history and science of mineralogy.
Strake Hall of Malacology
Malacology is the study of molluscs-invertebrate creatures with soft, unsegmented bodies, many of which house themselves in shells. This fascinating and highly diverse group of animals includes more than 100,000 species, ranging in size from snails so small that we can barely see them to giant squids more than 60 feet long. The Strake Hall of Malacology highlights these creatures through models, fossils, dioramas, living specimens and hundreds of rare and spectacular shells.
Evelyn and Herbert Frensley Hall of African Wildlife
Viewers of the hall will experience the excitement and diversity of African wildlife. Over 120 specimens representing more than 70 species will be on display, including 42 species of birds and 28 species of mammals. Many rare and endangered species will be showcased, including Okapi, Lowland Gorilla, Mandrill and Scimitar-horned Oryx. Additionally, many species rarely seen in museums will be displayed, including Gerenuk, Giant Forest Hog, Guenons and other forest primates, and a variety of birds. The natural panoramas containing family groups of Aoudad sheep, Scimitar-horned Oryx, Greater Kudu, Rock Hyrax, Spotted Hyaena, Egyptian Goose and Great Blue Turaco are a special treat for visitors of all ages.
First exhibited in 1851 at the World’s Fair in Paris, the Foucault Pendulum (named after Jean Bernard Leon Foucault, the French physicist who invented it) is a visual demonstration of the Earth’s rotation. Throughout the day, the direction of the pendulum’s swing appears to change. Actually the Earth is turning under the pendulum as it swings. At Houston’s latitude (30° N.) the pendulum will precess through 180° or halfway around each day. During this time, it will knock down all of the pins. The time required for the pendulum to complete its swing is a function of its length. Swinging from a cable over 60 feet long, the pendulum’s period is just over 7 seconds. The pendulum receives the energy needed to keep swinging from a magnet surrounding the cable at its top. As the pendulum reaches the middle of its swing, it closes a circuit that activates the electromagnet. The magnet pulls the cable away from the center position. The pendulum keeps on swinging as the world turns below.
For information on these and other exhibitions at HMNS, please visit their website.