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Home » Features » Museum Spotlight: Perot Museum, Dallas, TX
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Museum Spotlight: Perot Museum, Dallas, TX

January 7th, 2015  |  Written by Ron Sparkman, Photography by David Gifford
Driving around downtown Dallas, you’re very likely to see billboards for the Perot Museum that read “A Winter Wonder Land”. A fun play on the classic holiday phrasing that some may feel to be a bit too on the nose, but this author feels is a dead-on assessment of the coolest place in Dallas. Point in case, the first couple of times I came here, I couldn’t drag myself away from the top floor. Since this is a website about the Universe that was initially inspired by “Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey”, and the opening exhibit is essentially the first episode of the show made tangible, you can imagine why I felt this was the perfect subject for my first feature here on UpportunityU.
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Perot Museum, Dallas, TX.

Let’s back up a little bit. For those that may not know me, i.e. almost all of you, my first true love was paleontology. So once I read about the museum’s “World’s Largest Dinosaurs” showcase, this place quickly shot to number 1 on my to-do list in my new city. Around two weeks after I moved to Dallas, my mom came on vacation from West Virginia so I seized the opportunity for us to do something fantastic together. This would allow me to share my new passion with my biggest supporter. From the time, I walked in the door, I wasn’t disappointed. We stopped in for a quick bite at their first-floor cafe and I was pleasantly surprised to find healthy options on the menu. I wholeheartedly believe in giving people quality nutrition choices, especially when said visitors need to ‘brain food’ before they embark on an eye-opening journey through all of existence. As stated in the title, it wasn’t long before I saw the inadvertent correlations between this place and my favorite T.V. show. It wouldn’t be hard to make the show and the museum a dual experience. Perhaps a project for another day, eh? (For more info, check out my article on the series in the documentaries section here.)

The first thing you’ll notice venturing the museum is all the smiling faces willing to guide you in the right direction, dispense valuable information, or generally make you feel at home. Since the “World’s Largest Dinosaurs” exhibit is what drew me, we started there. I’ll admit, it was the only time I was little underwhelmed…at first. Realizing the exhibit almost solely focused on *the* largest dinosaurs, and not different groups of them like I’d wrongly assumed, I was worried it would be the only preserved prehistoric animals I’d get to see. My worries were unfounded, as I would soon find out

 Heading to the elevator, it was recommended all first-time visitors start from the top floor, down. Turning the corner, my eyes widened to saucers as I walked through what has arguably become my favorite place on Earth: the “Expanding Universe Hall”.

Oh. My. God…er…Science.

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Our Observable Universe

Right here and now, I’ll raise the challenge to any other “Astronut” to explore this room and NOT grin like the Cheshire Cat as you wander in a nearly involuntarily daze past the vast amounts of perfectly represented visual stimuli on display here. A large-scale model of the entire Observable Universe hovers over an expertly narrated video of the Universe — I’ll let you discover the voice-over artist for yourself– before giving way to a wall-mounted timeline adorned with information on trail-blazers like Newton and Hubble. Being locked in this part of the room for a week or two with open access would be just about the best vacation imaginable for someone like me.

Part of the room you may ask? I’d noticed my mom had disappeared and when I went looking for her, I noticed I’d missed a turn. I had been so enamored by all the outstanding Universe work, that I hadn’t even noticed I’d walked by the main part of the hall until almost 90 minutes later.  There, right in front of me, was the T Boone Pickens “Life Then and Now” hall. What’s that mean for you, dear reader?  Frackin’ Dinosaurs. I lightly mentioned my love for dinosaurs earlier so let me explain a little further. You see, growing up for me, there was nothing more fascinating than dinosaurs. Truth be told, my goal was to be a Paleontologist before the D.J. booth called my name. There’s still a very big part of me that wouldn’t mind searching for these so-called Terrible Lizards for the rest of my days. So when I found myself standing in between the two great science loves of my life, you can see how I could have been a bit…emotional. On a broken phone sitting in my closet is a video where I recorded as I realized just exactly what all surrounded me. I was Charlie in Wonka’s chocolate factory, boys and girls. As I proceeded down the hallway and into this main room floor, I noticed it expanding out to both sides, presenting visitors with a fantastic array of paleontological finds. Spread out of over all of the major Dinosauria epochs, I found myself stunned to silence yet again. Me, the dinonut, had never laid eyes on these ancient bones in real life. The obsessed teen in me– the one that walked around with a copy of The Lost World: Jurassic Park for a few years–took over for the next hour. It felt like…home. A place of pure, unadulterated joy. Even my talented photographer, David Gifford, had a blast trying to figure out how to frame photos because there was just SO much to put into each shot. As previously mentioned, I didn’t get off this floor the first few times I visited. The top floor may very well be my most favorite place on earth. This piece is only scratching the surface of such a source of pride for residents  and visitors alike.

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Therein lies the beauty of this place. I’ve been a half dozen times and still haven’t experienced all of it. I found it so very easy to be pulled into the little corners that have great stories to share or knowledge of boundless worlds to impart. For example, you’ll find a computer with a twist knob in the Universe hall. It’ll runs the whole gamut of the Universe, sizing it up from the mind-boggling immense to unimaginably small. It’s amazing to see an ant on the scale and then  be able to travel down so deep, that the ant itself is shown to be its own tiny Universe. On the other end, you’ll find technological marvels and how humankind has flourished over the years. You’ll discover how humankind evolved. The more adventurous among you can even feel what an earthquake is like! A gallery of fantastic photos is in the editing process that will show  you gems from the deepest places man has ever traveled to how the weather systems work, and even how we will slow the dramatic climate change that’s imperiling all life on Earth. It’s all here. Cosmos the Museum, indeed.
 It’s hard to do any sort of justice for what you will experience in this beautiful hub of exploration and creation. And what’s the most fantastic part of the whole experience, at least for me? Seeing children fully engaged in science. My last trip there was right before Christmas and multiple schools were doing their usual end of the semester field trips. There is nothing more wonderful than seeing hundreds of kids, not a single electronic device in sight, absolutely glowing at the wonderful world that surrounds them. There was a consistent echo of “What’s That?” filling the halls for the entire time I was there. To think that in that room might have been the next Edward Hubble or Annie Jump Cannon finding their passion for the first time, and that it may one day lead him or her on a path to change the world as we know it, well, I find it gives a grand feeling of hope for the world.
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Perot Museum makes for a wonderful kind of classroom that will get children excited about the sciences.

I implore you all to visit and let the experience wash over you. I’ve taken a handful of friends so far and plan on taking as many as I can in the future. I build up this experience every time before taking them and no one’s ever disappointed. This is what our society needs more of. This is what future generations are missing from their childhoods. You may not know that you are missing out, now you do. Snag the Upportunity. Make a difference. Change the world!!

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Note: Because of the sheer wonder and magic of this place, I immediately wanted to join their volunteer team. You may feel so inclined to do so yourself after reading this article or checking out the museum in person. You too can be a part of the ever-growing volunteer team by going here.

 

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