Washington DC – June 2018 – Museum of Natural History

The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is the most visited Natural History Museum in the world. With over 1.5 million square feet of space and 126 million specimens it is the authoritative view on natural history.

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The Hall of Mammals has an extensive collection.

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A map of the world has the population ‘clock’ that constantly updates.

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The Hall of Human Origins has a collection of sculptures of humans over time.

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The Hall of Geology, Gems and Minerals has a number of impressive pieces.

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Finally we toured the Ocean Hall.

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Seattle – September 2017 – Museum of Pop Art

The Museum of Pop Art in Seattle started life as a tribute to Jimi Hendrix by Paul Allen, one of the founders of Microsoft. Recently they rebranded themselves and have some nice other exhibits.


The guitar collection was amazing.

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The Hendrix area

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A large area for sci-fi

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Pittsburgh – July 2017 – Carnegie Science Center

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The Carnegie Science Center, like most science centers, is geared towards children, but with an excellent railway model of the highlights of Pittsburgh I wanted to check it out.

An added bonus was the Robot Hall of Fame, as well as a submarine docked on the banks of the Ohio River!

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An interesting display showing the stress high heel shoes put on a woman’s ankle and foot.

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Forbes Field

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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater

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Danger Will Robinson….

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Cincinnati – June 2017 – Observatory

The Cincinnati Observatory is located on the aptly named Mount Lookout. As one of the oldest observatories in the country, they feature two fantastic telescopes. A visit to the Observatory is highly recommended.

The main building has a 1904 Alvan Clark & Sons 16″ refractor telescope. The docent who took us up to the telescope allowed us to open the large metal roof with amazing ease with the rope and gears. Once open we spun the telescope over so we could look into the lens.

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The second building houses what is thought to be the oldest continually used telescope in the world, a 1945 wooden and metal Merz and Mahler 11″ refractor scope. While not as functional as new ones, you will not find a more beautiful telescope!

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Columbus – December 2015 – COSI and a Tour of Unique Downtown buildings

The last vacation of the day brought us downtown to see a few places that are always closed on weekends, plus visit one that is usually too crowded with kids on weekends.

The Ohio Supreme Court building on Front Street was built in the 1930s in a classic Art Deco style, and the interior still is a very nice example of this period. The early-1930s-era building, which features an art deco main concourse and a lavishly painted and decorated courtroom, we repurposed in 2004 for the Supreme Court.

Once you pass through security you are greeted with marble floors, ornate grill work on the heating vents, and soaring concourses that bring you to the elevators with their raised reliefs. The main courtroom off of this concourse is stunning in it’s ornateness. The ceiling has a number of murals in what appear to gold flaked frames, complimented by the Frank Lloyd Wright looking lights. Even the water fountains are stunning, formed out of granite with ‘OHIO’ carved above.

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The stairwells have additional murals out of tile. Once on the lower level you are greeted by a ceiling that has more tile artwork. The lower level also houses a small museum detailing government in Ohio, and how the legal branch works within.

We took the elevator to the 11th floor law library, primarily for the views out of the windows of downtown, the riverfront and COSI, but were pleasantly surprised to see this floor, while not as ornate as the lobby, was still impressive with the wooden ceilings and tasteful carpets. Also present for the season was a 10′ ‘Christmas tree’ made out of law books. After admiring the views out the windows we headed on with the solid belief that this building is truly a hidden treasure of Columbus.

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A block away is the Vern Riffe State Office Tower, a 503′ tower built in 1988. We were able to go to one of the upper floors that had public areas, but the windows we could get to were small, and with the overcast day provided little in photography opportunities, so we returned to the lobby where there is a small art gallery. The eclectic exhibit contained pieces made out of material such as networking cable and other non tradition items.

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We moved on to the former Lazarus Department Store building, now the home of a number of entities including the Ohio State University Urban Arts Center. They too had an eclectic collection, including a bunch of sculptures of monkey heads hanging  in rope baskets from the ceiling.

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Our next stop was COSI, the Center of Science and Industry, located in the former Central High School building on the west bank of the Scioto River. As with most places like this they are usually filled with kids, but we chose a weekday that school was out of session for the holidays so it was very quiet.

The first display was showing the use of electricity in every day life. Next door was – a Lego display – keeping with our winter tradition. COSI’s display had famous landmarks of the world; San Francisco Cable Car, a Zeppelin, Space Shuttle, a 747, the Queen Mary ship, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Big Ben, and more.

On the upper level we found a very nice display on the human body with many interactive exhibits including a display of the formation of a baby. The lower level had Main Street USA, an exhibit that COSI has had for almost 50 years, with the fake store fronts, a pay phone (!), and numerous neon signs. A collection of giant butterflies made out of various materials, including old license plates, lined the hallway outside.

Finally there was a display of industry in Ohio illustrating the aviation contributions Columbus has made.

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As we left COSI I walked over to a building I have long admired, the former Toledo and Central Ohio Railway station. The building was built with a Japanese inspiration (complete with pagoda) with an Art Nouveau twist. When it was built it was next door to a hotel, the Macklin, that had been built in the same style. Unfortunately the Macklin was torn down in the 1950s.

Not long after it was built the railroad was raised and the street level lowered so an underpass could be built, which exists to this day, essentially blocking the view of the building from the west. As we were checking the building out from the outside someone opened the door and asked if he could help us. When I explained we loved the building and was just taking some photos, he invited us in.

It turns out after the building was abandoned and damaged by fire the (ironically) firefighters union obtain ownership, and with the assistance of a grant, restore the building. The interior is interesting, but overwhelmed by the exterior to the extent it makes the interior seem somewhat bland. Having had a very full December day we headed home.

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Columbus – August 2015 – Ohio History Center

The Ohio History Center Museum, located on 17th Avenue across the street from the State Fairgrounds, is filled with exhibits exploring everything from life in the 1950s to extinct and endangered Ohio species to an exquisite collection of restored Civil War battle flags.

At the History Center Museum is Ohio Village, a recreated 1860s Ohio town. Open only during the summer I wanted to visit it before we left on vacation

The 22 buildings that make up the village are a mixture of reproductions and historic structures moved to the site. Among those currently standing are the Town Hall, Print Shop, General Store and Masonic Lodge, Education Center, Pharmacy, Blacksmith Shop, Tinsmith Shop, Broom and Basket Shop, Cabinetmaker/Undertaker’s Shop, Harnessmaker’s and Weaver’s shops, Ladies’ Soldiers Aid Society, Village Bakery, Market House, Livery Stable, Schoolhouse, Doctor’s Office and Residence, the Ohio Village Bank, the Colonel Crawford Inn, Church and the Elk’s Head Tavern.

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The museum itself had a number of exhibits including the “1950s through the eyes of a family” living in central Ohio with a hands-on, walk through of their Lustron home. Step back in time as you explore the nooks and crannies, cupboards and drawers of the family’s real, full-size Lustron house, built right inside our museum

Featured in the same area were tributes to noteworthy Ohio products and companies, including airplanes, automobiles, tires, and White Castle. The history of White Castle, America’s first hamburger chain, is celebrated in this panel exhibit. Visitors get a taste of artifacts and images from White Castle’s 85-year history, nearly all of it as a Columbus-based company. Items on display include plates and mugs, fountain glassware, posters, burger boxes, matchbooks, employee recognition pins, paper caps for men and women, sacks and a White Castle “clock” that has no hands because “we’re open all day and all night.”

Another section featured some of the Society’s most significant archaeological artifacts, such as the Adena Pipe, the mica hand, and the Wray figurine, as well as many animal effigy pipes from Tremper Mound are centrally featured in tower cases. Fiber optic lighting enhances visitors’ almost 360- degree view of these, and other, unique and beautiful artifacts. We were able to explore multiple artifact drawers to see what the ancient people used on a daily basis, as well as for special purposes.

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All in all the Ohio History Center Museum is a nice way to spend the day, although the Ohio Village needs some serious work and upkeep.