You’ve probably noticed this new building at the very North end of Old Town, and on Saturday, November 10th at the Grand Opening, you’ll finally be able to experience what’s inside: The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery! There’s been a lot of talk about this new museum, but I don’t think anyone in Fort Collins really knows what they’re in for. This is a completely different experience than the former Fort Collins Museum and Discovery Science Center, which had been a staple in Fort Collins’ culture since 1941. The new FCMOD still has the same mission of providing an interactive learning experience, that much is still the same, but as far as the exhibits, the facilities, and the technology FCMOD now offers…well, let’s just say there have been a few upgrades. This last Friday, I was lucky enough to attend the FCMOD Friends and Family Opening and got to see first hand what the new museum has to offer.
There are tons of neat things to see throughout the museum, but The Music Zone is by far my favorite area. It holds a variety of interactive musical instruments, exhibits that demonstrate the science of sound, and a variety of Fort Collins’ musical history memorabilia. There are plenty of exhibits the kids will enjoy, but adults will play and have just as much fun making noise, and hopefully, some music. (You may notice in some of my pictures that there are some temporary papers taped up for missing information panels; this was a soft opening, and everything should be complete for the grand opening this Saturday.)
One of the first things you see as you walk into the main gallery is the Piano lift. Using leverage and adjusting where you place the rope, anyone can use their body weight to lift a full size piano! Crazy! It kind of makes you feel like a super hero.
One of the exhibits I spent most of my time on was The Reactable. This is an addicting and fascinating plexiglass table that you place computerized blocks on to produce different sounds, and a build a song. Turning some blocks will change the frequency or rythm, while some will interact with other pieces and produce static and an array of sounds. Its fun to play with alone, trying to figure out what each piece does, but at one point we had 5 people playing at once, adding pieces and messing with the sound, and it turned into a hilarious social experience. Interestingly, there were no instructions anywhere in the little room the table was located, and it was up to the visitor to try and figure out what to do. The museum wants to facilitate ‘planned discovery’ in many of their exhibits, which means they provide the exhibits and you explore how to use them on your own. This philosophy is great for me, as I rarely read instructions to begin with and tend to just go for it. Another area this idea of planned discovery is successful is the Funky Forest.
This room is absolutely incredible, even bordering on magical. There are two projectors with sensors that allow you to interact with and affect the environment! You can splash in the water, use foam logs to guide the water or build a dam, and when you touch the wall with trees, you can grow plants and chase strange insects. I had a blast in here, even as an adult, splashing around and trying to grow things, and kids absolutely loved it.
The Listening Lounge provides guests with a cushy place to sit, put on some headphones, relax and either listen to music or play unique music apps on the Ipads provided. After walking all around the museum, this couch will feel nothing less than heavenly. It also makes a nice waiting area for parents, as their kids play in the adjacent garage.
The Garage provides an area for musicians to jam together, novices to try out new instruments, and will soon house recording equipment to record your musical creations. Nick Duarte, the Music Zone Curator, plans to have a variety of events centered around local music throughout the year, including live recording sessions of local artists in the garage.
In the center of the Music Zone, there are things called Trio Stations that are sure to suck you in. It’s a little like rock band, but with real instruments with exercises and lessons that help you to actually learn how to play the instrument, either guitar, drums or bass. In each station, there is one of each instrument in its own plexi-glassed area, facing the other players. You can choose to play alone, or you can ‘jam’ with the other instruments. I’ve didn’t make it past learning how to do solos and fills on the drums, which I rocked, but next time I go back I’ll make it a point to play with some friends.
Once you can tear yourself away form the amazing Music Zone, you will notice there is a DINOSAUR hanging from the ceiling! Do not be alarmed, this is just the Plesiosaur. There are a few different sections of the museum, including Wildlands & Wildlife, First Peoples, People on the Move, and Food Forage and Farm.
This is the Wildlands area, displaying fossils, animals, and artifacts found in the Fort Collins Area. One of the coolest features is the collection of taxidermy animals on a topographic map of our region; a little creepy, but neat to see what animals live around us . The wildlife zone also includes a 12,000 year old Bison Antiquus, and its boney counterpart. It’s actually very neat to have them displayed side by side, and see what what its bone structure looks like.
This section is devoted to the science of wind and air. The Wind Wall is a gigantic wall covered in sparkly silver dots (which my roommate requested we cover our living room in) that ripple and create patterns when you direct air at them with the fans positioned in front.
Another wind exhibit was the wind tube. Nearby, kids could assemble their own parachutes out of pipe cleaners and coffee filters, and then place it in the tube and watch it shoot up into the air. Kids loved this exhibit, as well as the other interactive wind stations. This museum is going to be an amazing place for parents to bring kids and explore together, and for schools to plan field trips. I know there are many Fort Collins residents who grew up visiting the original Fort Collins Museum, and now a new generation of children can grow up being inspired and educated at FCMOD.
One of the coolest parts of the museum, which sadly wasn’t quite ready during my visit, is the Digital Dome. This is a 360 degree movie theater, with the ability to either show movies specially designed for the domed screen, or to hook up to a satellite and travel in real time through space, zooming in on specific planets or even the sun! I cannot wait to go back and see this, it should be up an running for the opening on November 10th.
I didn’t even come close to showing you every exhibit in The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery; but, I hope I’ve at least gotten the point across that this museum is something you need to experience for yourself, tell your friends about, bring your kids to, and support. FCMOD is going to be a wonderful addition to Fort Collins, and we are so lucky to have it!