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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Life + Arts

Myraid of museums pleases Houstonians

Satisfy your appetite for knowledge with Houston’s plethora of science, history and cultural museums.

Houstonians who visit Houston’s fine arts museum will find collections of past and modern artifacts, artworks to intrigue their palate and fun and interactive science museums.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is a must-see for fans of sculptures and visual artwork from all eras and cultures. Art house movie fans can grab a calendar to see which art house flicks or classic films are showing this week at the MFAH cinema. Others may contemplate a visit to the Youth Art Month exhibition, which has pieces made by local students on display.

Aficionados of contemporary art have several can’t-miss spots around town. The most renowned is the polarizing Menil Collection – a modern heaven or hell, depending on whether you consider Cy Twombly’s multi-colored scribbles art or garbage.

Tucked away on 1520 Sul Ross St., next to the Rothko Chapel and Byzantine Fresco Chapel Museum, this hidden gem also boasts an intriguing collection of modern prints and ancient sculptures and paintings from across the globe.

The Houston Center for Contemporary Craft has an added bonus, hosting several artists behind the displayed collections. Visitors are encouraged to peek into the artists’ studios and discuss the day-to-day intimacies of their work.

The Museum of Printing History offers a unique look at pop art and ancient manuscripts in collections that are part-art exhibit, part history lesson. Visitors can view historical posters and prints, and peruse ancient Mesopotamian cylinder seals and a replica of the 1450 Gutenberg Press.

Other contemporary arts museums to visit include the Art Car Museum, the Station Museum of Contemporary Art, the Jack Meier Gallery, the Rice University Art Gallery, Lawndale Art and Performance Center, the Texas Gallery, Houston Center for Photography, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and UH’s Blaffer Gallery.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science engages all visitors with a variety of fresh exhibitions and collections. Visitors can catch a movie at the IMAX or stroll through the butterfly center, a giant garden filled with various species of butterflies. Other stunning exhibitions include the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals, a dinosaur fossil and several exhibits featuring life-size, eerily realistic dioramas of animals from North American ecosystems.

The three visiting exhibitions at the HMNS are Terra Cotta Warriors: The Guardians of China’s First Emperor, Nature of Diamonds and Genghis Khan.

HMNS coordinator of public relations and online media Steven Cowan said he was excited about the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibition.

‘The statues are 6 feet tall, (weigh) several hundred pounds, were built by hand and are over 2,000 years old. This exhibit is the largest that China has ever let leave the country,’ Cowan said.

Another science museum conveniently located near downtown is the John C. Freeman Weather Museum. Visitors can examine exhibitions demonstrating the innerworkings of severe phenomena – such as tornados and hurricanes – and view Hurricane Ike footage. Those with a flair for performance can give their own weather forecast.

The Health Museum is a bleak, dark square building that fails to convey the creative and engaging interior. While most adults will already know about the content behind the exhibitions on nutrition, genetics and anatomy, visitors of all ages will enjoy the interactive videos and games sprinkled throughout the museum.

For an exclusively child-oriented experience, visit the Children’s Museum of Houston, located down the street from the HMNS. This museum features interactive displays that present engineering principles in kid-friendly ways.

CMH public relations associate Henry Yau suggested that parents take their kids to Kidtropolis, a miniature town where children can get a job, run for office and use debit cards to buy food.

History fans have a city-wide itinerary of cultural collections that are worth the drive.
The Holocaust Museum, Houston aims to educate all visitors about the horrors of the Third Reich, with stories from Holocaust survivors and actual displays of period artifacts. Two of the most interesting artifacts are a World War II Holocaust railcar that transported Jews to concentration camps and a Danish rescue boat used to rescue Jews from imprisonment and death.

The Houston Police Museum will satisfy historians with old police uniforms, clippings and vehicles. However, the collection of police firearms and confiscated weapons, steal the show.

Museum-goers can find their sea legs at the Houston Maritime Museum’s collection of model ships and ancient navigation artifacts.

Another historical museum, the National Museum of Funeral History in Spring, Texas, is a long drive from campus, but is worth visiting for its expansive collection of hearses and coffins from different cultures and time periods.

The recently opened papal exhibition features replicas of papal vestments and the actual Popemobile that transported Pope John Paul II around the United Kingdom in 1982.

Other can’t miss stops for history buffs include Buffalo Soldier National Museum, American Cowboy Museum, Heritage Society, Houston Railroad Museum, Czech Center Museum Houston and Houston Fire Museum.

Houston’s selection of museums can overwhelm any culture-lover on a budget. If you find yourself in a financial bind, mark your calendar for Museum District Day on Sept. 12.

The Houston Museum District, an organization that coordinates events for 18 museums located within the same general area, has set this date as an admission-free day for 14 of their affiliated museums. Visitors will also enjoy free performances, demonstrations and interactive activities celebrating the arts.

A shuttle bus will transport visitors throughout the district, allowing them to sample the exhibitions and collections from different museums.

Those who would like a list of participating museums and more information can visit the Museum District Web site at

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