USS Razorback (SS-394)

About 1/4 mile from the Downtown Riverside RV Park in Little Rock, Arkansas where we were statying, is the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum, which has a submarine, USS Razorback, and a WWII Tugboat, USS Hoga, on display.  The USS Hoga is not open for tours at this time, as they are trying to eliminate/contain the asbestos that is present on the boat.

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The USS Razorback was commissioned on April 3, 1944 and served in World War II, the Cold War and the Vietnam War.  She received five battle stars from WWII and four from Vietnam. On November 11, 1970, the US Navy decommissioned the sub, and sold her to the Turkish Navy.  In 1971, the Turkish Navy commissioned her as TCG Muratreis, and she remained in service for the Turkish Navy until August 8, 2001.  The submarine became the longest-serving submarine in the world.    In 2002 a group of submarine veterans and the City of Little Rock began the process of acquiring the sub to bring it back to the United States and open up a museum.  Here is a view of the USS Razorback from a nearby pedestrian bridge.

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Guided tours are available, and you learn a lot about life on a submarine, both from the guide, and a small museum on the premises.  Ten officers, and 70 enlisted men served on this 311 foot long submarine.  Entry to the submarine remains the same way since 1944, right down the hatch.  And if you don’t like tight spaces, you should probably skip the tour.

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The front and back of the sub contain the torpedo areas.

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The enlisted men’s quarters.

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Shower facilities. Yes, it’s a closet without a door.  And from what our guide told us, showers were limited to one per month!

DSC05046To save space, the dining room tables had built-in board games for their entertainment.
DSC05024And the deluxe, gourmet kitchen for the cook!

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The center of the sub contained the operations area.

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The museum has a display of patches from other WWII submarines.

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The grounds of the museum contain a memorial to the fifty-two submarines that were lost during World War II, and to the men that made the ultimate sacrifice to our country.

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Quote for the day:  “When I lost my rifle, the Army charged me 85 dollars.  That is why in the Navy the Captain goes down with the ship.” – Dick Gregory

The Little Rock Nine

Prior to our arrival in Little Rock, Arkansas, I had made a reservation with the National Park Service to visit Little Rock Central High School, which is both a historical landmark and an operating high school.  During the school year, tours are only offered twice a day, and only while the school is in session.  Reservations are required.  Across the street from the school, the Park Service has a visitor center with exhibits, and many audio recordings to listen to from the students, teachers, and residents of Little Rock that give first hand stories about the events that happened in 1957.  For us, this was one of the most impressive and informative National Park Service tours we have ever attended.

Little Rock Central High School was built-in 1928 at a cost of $1.2 million (yes, that’s million…in 1928!)  It is the most impressive high school we have ever seen.  At the time our of tour, there was a group of students from Chicago on a field trip, and they were amazed at the school.  Since it is an operating school, the tour is very limited to the main entrance, the auditorium and the cafeteria.  We would have loved to roam the halls of the building.  You could just feel the history.  Other than security cameras and elevators, it seems to have been left in its original state.  The staircases had wooden banisters, and the auditorium still had the original wooden seats.  It has a current enrollment of 2422 students for grades 9 – 12.  The school continues to thrive today, and is considered one of the 16 best schools to prepare students for college with over 177 different courses offered, 30 advanced placement classes, and five foreign languages taught.

The school is so big, I had to do a panoramic shot to get the entire front of the building in the photo.  There are over 100 classrooms in the building.  There were about 60 people in our tour group, and I think all of us said “wow” when we first saw the school, except for the one student from Chicago who remarked ‘our school is trash compared to this!’

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Here is a close-up of the middle section of the school, where the main entrance is.

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So why is this the only high school in America designated as a National Park?  Time for a brief history lesson.

“We the people” are the first three words of the Constitution as it was written in 1787.  But who does “we” represent?   White male landowners.  Over time, through amendments to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights,  the definition of “we” has expanded.   Some of these rights came as a result of protest, and the visitors center has details about how the rights of people have expanded as a result of individuals protesting.   Through protest, comes change.

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In 1954, the US Supreme Court outlawed segregation in elementary and secondary schools in the Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas case.  The schools in the Southern states were slow to begin the process of integrating schools, which would allow students to go to the school in their own neighborhood, instead of getting bused across town.

The Little Rock school board quietly discussed how to integrate students at the high school level, and announced it would accept African-American students at Central High School.  But they only wanted a limited number of students, and would only accept those who had straight A’s and perfect attendance.  Over 200 students applied, and the school board realized that was too many.  So they continued to raise the bar on the standards.  No African American student would be allowed to participate in any athletic or club event.  No after school activities.  The students were only allowed to attend school, and must leave immediately at the end of the school day.  Eventually only 10 students were left.

This integration did not sit well with Arkansas Governor Faubus, and he ordered the National Guard to bar the African-American students from school.  On September 3, 1957, a mob gathered outside the school, along with the National Guard.  One of the parents of the 10 students, after seeing the angry mob, decided against sending their daughter to that school.  Nine students were left, but they did not attend the first day of school.

On the second day of school, the Arkansas National Guard barred the students from entering the school.  These 9 students were harassed, spit upon, and shoved around as they walked towards school.  Not by fellow students, but by the parents and community members that gathered daily around the school.  By September 20, a Federal judge rules against the use of the National Guard, and the Little Rock Police were responsible for the students safety.   On September 23, the Little Rock Nine (Terrence Roberts, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Minnijean Brown, Jefferson  Thomas, Carlotta Walls, Gloria Ray and Melba Pattillo) finally entered the high school.  But the local police were overwhelmed by the angry mob and a riot broke out.  The police removed the students from the school.

By this time, media from around the country were broadcasting multiple times a day from the school.  A local gas station, which had a pay telephone, was set up for the reporters.  That gas station, across from the school, has been preserved as part of the history. (gas was 22 cents a gallon, by the way!)

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People around the country were both horrified and supportive of what they were seeing coming out of Little Rock.  But President Eisenhower had seen enough, and federalized the Arkansas National Guard.  In addition, he sent in 1200 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division to restore order and protect the students.  The soldiers escorted students into the school, and remained inside the hallways of the school to protect the nine students.  The soldiers were not allowed inside the classrooms or bathrooms of the school.  As a result, the nine students were physically and verbally abused in the classrooms and bathrooms by fellow students.

In 1957, there were around 2000 students attending the high school.  About 200 of the students were constantly harassing the nine students.  In listening to the audio recordings of the Little Rock Nine detailing their experiences, it wasn’t the action of the 200 students that bothered them, as much as the inaction of the 1800 students that just stood by and did nothing.  They called them the silent majority.

One of the nine students was expelled, after she was physically assaulted by a group of female students.  She did not physically retaliate, but called them “white trash.”  After her expulsion, students passed out cards stating ‘one down, eight to go.’  By November, the Airborne Division leaves, and the nine students continue to endure verbal and physical assaults for the remainder of the school year.

On May 25, 1958, Ernest Green became the first African-American student to graduate from Central High School.  In attendance at his graduation, was a man who wanted to watch this historical event, Dr. Martin Luther King.

But that’s not the end of this fight for integration.  Governor Faubus shut down all the schools in Little Rock for the 1958-59 school year, in order to block the integration of the school district.  A Federal Court ruled the closing of the schools was unconstitutional, and the schools reopened in August 1959.

All of the Little Rock Nine not only graduated from high school (not all from Central), but went on to college and had very successful careers.  Jefferson Thomas passed away in 2010 from cancer, but the other eight are still alive.

If you are ever in the Little Rock, Arkansas area, please try to do this tour.  Even if you only have time to look at the exhibits in the visitors center, it is worth the time.  What these students had to endure was truly heartbreaking, but their will to persevere is inspirational.

 

Quote for the day:  “Any time it takes 11,500 soldiers to assure nine Negro children their constitutional rights in a democratic society, I can’t be happy.”  – Daisy L. Gatson Bates

 

 

 

Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial (part 2)

In my last post, I went over  the outdoor memorial for the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial. And I want to apologize for having the wrong year, 1985, instead of 1995.  The post has been edited, but if you receive the blog via e-mail, it had the wrong date.

Today will cover the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum.  The museum is one of the best museums I have ever visited.  It takes you through the day of the bombing, the days and weeks that followed, and has many first hand stories from the survivors and first responders.  It chronicles the investigation and trials of the domestic terrorists, and has a moving memorial to the victims at the end of the museum.

When you walk into the first of two floors in the museum, you are greeted with a large mural of downtown Oklahoma City with the words, “A day like any other” on the wall.  You will learn about the history of the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building, along with what the times were like in 1995.  There is a “technology display,” which contains these “state of the art” cell phones and pagers! (and remember the cell phone plugged in to the cigarette lighter…now called a 12 volt charger!).  Just 14% of the population was connected to the internet in 1995.

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Also on display is an old closed circuit television camera, and video taken from a nearby office building of a Ryder rental truck driving down the street in Oklahoma City, heading to the Federal Building.

You enter into ‘the hearing room’ and sit down to listen to an audio recording from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board Meeting that was going on in a nearby building.  Just a few minutes into the hearing, at 9:02 am, the tape recorder picks up the sound of an explosion.  I was struck by how loud the explosion was.  It is the only documented recording of the blast.  The doors from the hearing room open, and you walk into a room containing many artifacts from the bombing.

This clock, from a nearby office building, stopped at 9:02 am.  The lower left has a date book from one of the victims in the Murrah building, and the lower right portion of the photo is an electric pencil sharpener.

P1010824The next photo below has a piece of an elevator panel, car door frame, light fixtures and plaster found in the rubble.

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A few pieces of the bronze letters to the federal building were found amongst the rubble.  They were pitted and scarred from the blast.

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A Florida license plate was also found in the rubble, which provided investigators clues to the bombing.  The plate belonged to a Ryder rental truck.

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At 10:28 am, first responders were ordered to evacuate the building, as a box labeled “explosives” was found in the building.  The box was removed by the bomb squad, and rescue efforts resumed.  This was the item in that box, called a TOW missile (tube-launched, optically-tracked, wireless-guided) missile, used by the US Customs office, which was located in the building.

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One of the many stories told in the museum, is that of Daina Bradley.  She was at the Federal Building, along with her two children, her mother and her sister.  They had gone to the Social Security Office to obtain a social security card  for her new son.  Rescuers found her trapped under a concrete beam, and they started to dig her out from under the rubble.  But then they had to abandon her, when they were ordered to evacuate the building as a result of the bomb scare at 10:28am.  Once the ‘all clear’ was received, rescuers went back to her and spent two hours trying to dig her out, but were unable to do so.  Her lower leg remained trapped, and the only way to rescue her was to amputate her leg.  An orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Andy Sullivan, attempted to amputate her leg with a scalpel, but had to abandon her after another bomb scare, at 1:48 pm, forced all the rescuers to again evacuate the building.  After the ‘all clear,’ he again returns to her, and using a nylon rope as a tourniquet, is able to complete the amputation using his pocket knife.  This was done without anesthesia. Ms. Bradley survived the bombing, but her mother and both of her children did not.  Her sister was severely injured.  Below are the items donated to the museum by Dr. Sullivan.  This is just one of the many gut-wrenching stories told in the museum.

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One of the heart-warming things I took away was how quickly, and compassionately the citizens of Oklahoma City responded to this bombing.  There are photographs of nurses running down the street towards the site of the bombing carrying hospital supplies and blankets to help the victims.  A triage was set up outside the building.

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There was a food and restaurant convention going on in downtown Oklahoma City, and those members quickly used the equipment that they brought to display at their sales booths, to set up an impromptu ‘restaurant’ to feed all the first responders.  Fire Departments from all over the country sent personnel to help with the rescue efforts.  Sadly, one of the members from the New York Fire Department that helped in the rescue efforts in Oklahoma City, was killed in the 9/11 bombing in 2001.

A piece of the original chain link fenced is on display at the museum, with a small portion of the items sent to Oklahoma City from all over the world.

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The museum has an in-depth timeline on the investigation and prosecution of Timothy McVeigh,  Terry Nichols and Michael and Lori Fortier.  I won’t go into too much detail on them, or the reasons behind the bombing. For me, this visit was about honoring the victims and the survivors. But I will say that McVeigh was sentenced to death, Nichols is serving a life sentence, Michael Fortier served 12 years, and Lori was given immunity in exchange for her testimony.

Timothy McVeigh was stopped at 10:17 am, just seventy-five minutes after the bombing, on I-35 by an Oklahoma State Trooper for having a missing license plate on this 1977 Mercury Grand Marquis.  During questioning, the trooper noticed McVeigh had a concealed handgun, and took him into custody.

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By April 22, federal investigators had put together enough evidence from the bombing site to come up with a suspect, McVeigh, and discovered he was being held in Perry, Oklahoma on the handgun related charges.  He was taken into federal custody, and was wearing this t-shirt at the time of his arrest.  The Latin phrase means “Thus always to tyrants,” and was the phrase John Wilkes Booth shouted when he shot President Lincoln.  McVeigh’s booking photo is in the bottom corner of the photo.

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On May 23, 1995, the Murrah Building was imploded.  At the time, it was thought there were just two remaining bodies in the building, both employees of the credit union.   They allowed the two families to hold a memorial service prior to the implosion.  After the implosion, they found the remains of three bodies.  The third person, who had been reported missing a week before the implosion by his sister, was believed to have been in the credit union as a customer during the explosion.

The last part of the museum is the Gallery of Honor, where photographs of all 168 victims are on display, along with mementos provided by family members. Putting a face with a name, and seeing the objects in the display cases, was a heartfelt way to remember the victims.   The name of every victim is read over a speaker in the room.  The room is a wonderful memorial, but difficult to walk through, without fighting back the tears.

The museum has a STEM lab, for teachers and students to learn more about the bombing, forensics and investigations, and how to engineer and build structures that can withstand both natural and man-made disasters.

The one thing I will always remember from my visit to the museum, is how well everyone came together to help each other out.  It was even noted in the museum that the crime rate in Oklahoma City was almost non-existent for weeks after the bombing. The resilience of the people in Oklahoma City is amazing. I left the museum emotionally drained, but at peace knowing good always conquers evil.

Quote of the Day:  “We don’t even know how strong we are until we are forced to bring that hidden strength forward.  In times of tragedy, of war, of necessity, people do amazing things.  The human capacity for survival and renewal is awesome.” – Isabel Allende

Oklahoma City Memorial (part one)

Oklahoma City has been a ‘bucket list’ item for me for many years.  In particular, visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial.  April 19, 1995 is a day cemented in my memory, as it started out with an early morning telephone call from my sister Margie, saying she was in labor, and heading to the hospital.  I had asked if I should come to the hospital, and she said no, she would call later and let me know.  And then I went to work and waited and waited (remember, this was before text messaging, and the days of “instant” everything!).  But then I received word that my sister had a beautiful baby girl, Hannah Catherine!  A wonderful start to the day!

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But the world as we knew it, greatly changed at 9:02 am, April 19, 1995, with the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City.  What started out, for me, as a joyous occasion, became a day of sorrow and confusion.  Even though it has been 23 years, I do remember that day well.  When I went to see my sister in the hospital, and met my niece for the first time, I recall my sister was emotionally drained by the days events.  She had just given birth to her first child, only to turn on the television in the morning to see babies and children being carried out of the building.  It was a horrifying scene.  Of the 168 people killed in the bombing, 19 of them were children, as there was a daycare in the federal building that many employees used.

This is a picture that I took of a photo on display at the museum, showing the devastation from the blast.

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And the site as it looks today, as viewed from a window in the museum.

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It was an emotional day 23 years ago, and it was an emotional and difficult day for me when we visited the memorial.  I had to choke back a lot of tears in the museum and at the memorial site.  I just kept thinking about what my sister had gone through that day, but kept telling myself that out of something so horrible, life does keep going on.  There are really two parts to the memorial:  A museum which chronicles the events of that day, with many first hand survivor stories, and an outdoor memorial, honoring the victims, survivors, first responders, and children.

The museum is located in a building that was across the street from the federal building. (it is the building in the foreground from the photo above).  It was an office building at the time, and was one of over 300 buildings in the downtown area that sustained damage from the blast.  Although no one was killed in this building, many were injured from ceilings collapsing, and broken glass from the windows getting blown out.

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The outdoor memorial consists of the gates of time, a reflecting pool, field of empty chairs, survivor wall, survivor tree, rescuer’s orchard, children’s area and the fence.  Today’s blog will just cover the outside memorial.

When you approach the museum from the parking lot, 200 feet of the original chain-link fence that surrounded the bomb site is still in place. Over 60,000 items were put on the fence, and have been collected and archived in the museum.   And even today, people continue to place items on the fence, especially shoes, in memory of the victims and survivors.  Many of the bombings survivors talked about how they had their shoes literally blown off their feet during the blast, and first responders reported finding many shoes, but no bodies, during their initial search and rescue efforts.

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After viewing the fence, you walk up through the gates of time.  Two very large walls that frame the time of the events.  9:01 am, when it was just another day…

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And then 9:03 am, when the time for healing began…

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In between is the reflecting pool, symbolizing 9:02 am, when the bombing occurred, and the world was forever changed.  The pool and gates of time is where N. W. Fifth Street, the street in front of the federal building, was located at.

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After the Murrah building was imploded, a few walls remained standing, despite going through not one, but two blasts.  These walls were left in place, and the names of the survivors are on one of the walls.

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An American Elm tree was located between the Murrah building, and the office building that is now the site of the museum.  Despite the blast, that tree survived, and has become known as the Survivor Tree.  Arborists have carefully maintained this tree, and every year seeds from the tree have been given out to families of the victims as well as the survivors, for planting.  It is a symbol, once again, of life continuing on from a tragic event.

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The Survivor’s Tree overlooks the Rescuer’s Orchard, to honor all the first responders, medical personnel and volunteers that helped out.  The inscription along the base of the survivor’s tree states “To the courageous and caring who responded from near and far, we offer our eternal gratitude, as a thank you to the thousands of rescuer and volunteers who helped.”

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Rescuer’s Orchard

Right in front of the entrance to the museum is the Children’s Area.  Thousands of tiles painted by children were sent to Oklahoma City after the bombing, and they have been placed on a wall.

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The most somber area is the Field of Reflecting Chairs, located where the Murrah building was located.   There are 168 chairs, each bearing the name of a victim of the bombing.  Nineteen of the chairs are small, for each of the children.  There are nine rows of chairs to represent each floor of the building, and five chairs are off to the right, representing the five victims killed outside of the building.  The chairs have a light underneath them, but we did not go back to see the memorial at night.

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Across the street, and not part of the official memorial, is a statue, Jesus Wept, on the grounds of St. Joseph Catholic Church, which was also damaged in the bombing.  There are 19 black granite pillars surrounding the statue, for the children.

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I found the outdoor memorial to be a well-designed tribute and remembrance to the victims, survivors, first responders and volunteers that came together after this tragic event.  It was very emotional and humbling to see.

There was just too much to put in one post on this memorial.  My next post will be on the museum itself.   As I started this post about my sister Margie, and niece Hannah, I will end it with them as well.  Happy Birthday Hannah!

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Hannah and my sister, Margie

My Quote for the Day is from the quote on the back of the Gates of Time:

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“We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever.  May all who leave here know the impact of violence.  May this Memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.”

TX: Perot Museum of Nature and Science

One of our options when we bought the Dallas City Pass (highly recommended if you will be in the area) is the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.  Since it was Spring Break week during our visit, it was a very busy place.  If you have ever been to a museum with a school class field trip, imagine that times 100!  It’s a great place for kids, and those young at heart, as they have five levels of inter-active exhibits.  We visited with my sister LuAnn, husband John and our niece Alicia.

The five children of former Presidential Candidate Ross Perot (yes, he is still alive) donated $50 million dollars in 2008 to purchase land in Dallas and build a museum to honor their parents.  The museum opened in December of 2012.

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There are eleven different exhibit halls, and one traveling exhibit, which happened to be The Journey to Space while we were there.  Perhaps a future trip to Mars is in Alicia’s future?

 

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LuAnn and Alicia

The exhibits cover everything from the life of birds, dinosaurs, energy and drilling, gems and minerals, engineering (complete with robots that you can play with), geology, geography, weather, etc.  There is something for everyone.  They have a small platform that you can stand on that simulates an earthquake, and you can practice being a weather forecaster.  Despite the crowds, it was a fun day.

 

They have a large display of cast skeletons, including this giant turtle…

P1010542A flying Pterodactyl with a small body, but large wing-span…

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And Tyrannosaurus  Rex, from McCone County, Montana.  North America’s top predator during the Cretaceous Period, a mere 66 million years ago…

P1010537They have many large gems and minerals on display.  What’s the difference between a gem and a mineral, you ask?  A gem is a mineral, that has been polished or cut into facets that reflect the mineral’s crystal structure.

A mineral is a naturally occurring, inorganic substance with distinct physical properties and a crystalline structure derived from its chemical composition.  Not all  minerals are gems, but all gems are minerals.  Sort of like bourbon is a whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon.  Anyway, here’s a few photos.  This is Scolecite, from Ahmednagar, India.  The crystal system is Monoclinic.

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This is a large Opal, from Opal Butte, Morrow County, Oregon.  Crystal system is Amorphous.

179068AC-1CD7-46FE-86E4-AB5150F21682This is Rhodochrosite, Crystal system is Trigonal.  It is from the Sweet Home Mine, Mount Bross, Alma District, Colorado.

CC270A1C-FC6F-41FF-A6AA-6A1C6F095219And finally, this one is Cavansite and Stilbite.  Crystal system Orthohombic, from the Wahgoli Quarry in Maharashtra, India.  The display of minerals was very interesting.

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The museum has several 3D educational movies as well.  For those with young children, they do have an area just for children 5 and under.  It was nice to see so many families, with children of all ages, spending time learning.

 

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John, LuAnn and Alicia

Quote for the Day:  “It is so compelling to hear how many great researchers, scientists, engineers, doctors, and educators first became interested in their chosen fields as a result of visiting a great museum of science or natural history.  It is our hope that this museum can be an inspiration to the next generation of pioneers, discoverers and visionaries.”  – Nancy Perot Mulford (one of the Perot’s children)