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Museum offers exhibits, activities for all ages

Aug. 23, 2004

By AMANDA HICKS, copy editor

The Mayborn Museum Complex has been a hub for exploration and education since its May 22 opening. Since then, more than 20,000 visitors have passed through the museum's elegant Grand Rotunda.

Three separate entities, the Strecker Museum, Ollie May Moen Discovery Center and the Gov. Bill and Vara Daniel Historic Village are combined to form the complex. The museum's exterior was completed in September 2003, but moving and installing the exhibits took an additional eight months.

Sarah Levine, Mayborn's director of marketing, said the movers ran into some obstacles when transporting artifacts from the Strecker Museum to the complex.

"For instance, the giant sea turtle is 70 million years old, so they had to be really careful with it," Levine said. "The tree slice exhibit was hard to move too, especially since there was no elevator from the old Strecker basement."

Houston's Southwest Museum Contractors was brought in to plan out the flow of the museum. The team brought in professors to consult museum staffers about how the exhibits would most logically fit together, Levine said.

The $23.1 million, 143-square-foot center was funded by a campaign lasting a few years, Levine said. However, the idea to build the museum combining the entities was in the works for longer.

Features include a clear floor over the Waco Mammoth archeological dig site that lets visitors walk above the relic, an interactive exhibit where children can try on clothes of different cultures, Strecker's Cabinets of Curiosities, and a TV News and Weather room that lets future meteorologists step in front of a weather map in front of a live-feed camera.

Children and adults will get a hands-on experience with living exhibits which is not found in traditional museums, according to Levine.

Baylor Museum Studies majors are also given an area to showcase their future profession in the Baylor University Exhibit. The exhibit follows the history of the Student Foundation.

On Aug. 1, the museum hosted a National Kids Day celebration featuring science activities with Janice VanCleave, balloon animals and special activities in 6 of the complex's 17 discovery rooms.

VanCleave's Science for Fun program engaged children and adults in hands-on experiments with center of gravity and physics.

"Today's focus is to get families doing things with children," Jill Barrow, director of education of the Mayborn Museum, said. "This is the fourth annual KidsDay we've hosted. What's exciting is that right now, we have people in every single room."

Mark Mastin, project manager for Baylor Information Technology Services, said his family went to the old museum before this one opened. "Their favorite area is the neighborhood exhibit," Mastin said. "So we make them wait until the end to go there."

Volunteer opportunities are always open at the center. Carol Mowlin, assistant coordinator of volunteers and visitor Services, said 200 volunteers, more than 150 of them students, are actively involved with the museum. Mowlin will soon meet with Panhellenic sorority presidents and service chairs to set up service opportunities.

"Baylor has so many service organizations and honor societies," Mowlin said. "The commitment we're looking for is light. All we need is five or six people to learn how to cover each area."

The complex is open Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thurs. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sun. 1 to 5 p.m. Student admission is free with a Baylor ID.

To volunteer at the museum, contact Faye Swann at 710-7985.