Women of Fort Collins: Carmen Johnson

Women of Fort Collins: Carmen Johnson

Get inspired!

For the 4th year in a row, the Collections and Archives staff of Fort Collins Museum of Discovery are sharing stories and photographs of notable Fort Collins women. Discover the paths of many local luminaries with inspirational video presentations full of historic images, audio recordings, and fascinating information!

This Episode: Carmen Johnson

Carmen Johnson spent twenty-three years as Larimer County’s Home Demonstration agent for the Extension Service. This presentation talks about her life and just what home demonstration was.

Ready for more? You can learn about other amazing people of Fort Collins and Northern Colorado in the Archive at FCMoD! Visit fcmod.org/research for more information.

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Women of Fort Collins: Betty Herrmann

Women of Fort Collins: Betty Herrmann

Get inspired!

For the 4th year in a row, the Collections and Archives staff of Fort Collins Museum of Discovery are sharing stories and photographs of notable Fort Collins women. Discover the paths of many local luminaries with inspirational video presentations full of historic images, audio recordings, and fascinating information!

This Episode: Betty Herrmann

Betty Herrmann left a legacy at the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery through her work, donations, and the impact she had on the people there.

Ready for more? You can learn about other amazing people of Fort Collins and Northern Colorado in the Archive at FCMoD! Visit fcmod.org/research for more information.

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Women of Fort Collins: Elfreda Stebbins

Women of Fort Collins: Elfreda Stebbins

Get inspired!

For the 4th year in a row, the Collections and Archives staff of Fort Collins Museum of Discovery are sharing stories and photographs of notable Fort Collins women. Discover the paths of many local luminaries with inspirational video presentations full of historic images, audio recordings, and fascinating information!

This Episode: Elfreda Stebbins

Elfreda Stebbins, graduate of the library school at the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia, became our city’s first librarian in 1903. Throughout her 28-year career, she served as a force for literacy and culture in Fort Collins.

Ready for more? You can learn about other amazing people of Fort Collins and Northern Colorado in the Archive at FCMoD! Visit fcmod.org/research for more information.

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Women of Fort Collins: Isabelle Knopf

Women of Fort Collins: Isabelle Knopf

Get inspired!

For the 4th year in a row, the Collections and Archives staff of Fort Collins Museum of Discovery are sharing stories and photographs of notable Fort Collins women. Discover the paths of many local luminaries with inspirational video presentations full of historic images, audio recordings, and fascinating information!

This Episode: Isabelle Knopf

Fort Collins native Isabelle Knopf worked at Heart Mountain Japanese Internment Camp during World War II. As a single mother, she had various jobs before having a long career with the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

Ready for more? You can learn about other amazing people of Fort Collins and Northern Colorado in the Archive at FCMoD! Visit fcmod.org/research for more information.

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Women of Fort Collins: Virginia Corbett

Women of Fort Collins: Virginia Corbett

Get inspired!

For the 4th year in a row, the Collections and Archives staff of Fort Collins Museum of Discovery are sharing stories and photographs of notable Fort Collins women. Discover the paths of many local luminaries with inspirational video presentations full of historic images, audio recordings, and fascinating information!

This Episode: Virginia Corbett

Virginia Corbett came to Colorado Agricultural College in 1900 to teach literature and history. She was a passionate advocate for college women for over 30 years and taught briefly at Ginling College, Nanjing, China in the 1920s.

Ready for more? You can learn about other amazing people of Fort Collins and Northern Colorado in the Archive at FCMoD! Visit fcmod.org/research for more information.

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Mind Matters Returns September 25th!

It’s time to continue the conversation. FCMoD is proud to announce the return of the groundbreaking exhibition Mental Health: Mind Matters this fall!

Mark your calendars to visit Mental Health: Mind Matters, slated to open September 25, 2021 and run through January 2, 2022. This thought-provoking special exhibition provides informative and hopeful experiences to help open the door to greater understanding, conversations and empathy toward the challenges of mental health.

Presented in English, Spanish and French, visitors of all ages will explore hands-on experiences that bring you closer to the facts, feelings and issues surrounding this topic that touches so many of our lives.

When you visit Mental Health: Mind Matters, you can peer into mini dioramas of important moments in mental health history. Play a quiz show to test your knowledge of common misperceptions about mental illnesses. Hear what it’s like to experience psychosis and feel what it’s like to be unable to ignore your surroundings. Watch heartfelt videos where individuals talk about their personal experiences living with mental illnesses. Write down your worries and destroy them in the Worry Shredder. Pick up a family and group conversation guide to continue the conversation with your closest networks. Visit the resource center to learn about local resources and services in Northern Colorado to share with someone you know or better your own mental health.

Stay tuned as the exhibit nears for more information about programs and workshops to help continue the conversation beyond Mental Health: Mind Matters.

Interested in supporting this exhibit and other special exhibitions? Contact FCMoD’s development team at mallison@fcmod.org for ways to support the museum.

Mental Health: Mind Matters was produced for North America by the Science Museum of Minnesota in collaboration Heureka, The Finnish Science Centre and advised by National Alliance on Mental Illness.

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FCMoD Squad Applications Now Open!

Do you love music? Do you love engaging with your community? Join us and go behind the scenes of the local front range music community. The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery is excited to announce the first year of the FCMoD Squad!  

What it means to be in the FCMoD Squad:  

The FCMoD Squad are individuals between the ages of 15 and 19 who are interested in becoming more involved within The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, the Fort Collins music scene, and their community.  

Squad members will: 

  • Work behind the scenes in music events such as Sonic Spotlight https://www.sonicspotlight.org/, FoCoMX https://focomx.focoma.org/, and more. 
  • Actively provide insight into current and future museum exhibits, programs, and events.
  • Participate in outings to other community groups and organizations.  

Responsibilities of a FCMoD Squad Member:  

  • Attend meetings on the 2nd Thursday from 6:00pm- 8:00pm at FCMoD and at least one monthly activity/tour.
  • Actively engage and contribute in meetings and activities. 
  • Inform the Squad through email, text, or call if unable to attend a meeting with valid reason such as an illness, extracurricular activity, school event, or other circumstance.  
  • Embody the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery Mission and Vision. 
    • Mission: The museum creates meaningful opportunities to learn, reflect, and have fun through hands-on and collections-based explorations in science and culture. 
    • Vision: To inspire inquisitive thinkers and encourage responsible stewardship of the future. 

To Apply:

Applications are open to Fort Collins/Front Range residents ages 15-19. Submissions will open July 12th ending on August 1st, with interviews to follow. Members will serve a total of nine months from August to April, with a maximum of two terms. 

Visit www.fcmod.org/fcmod-squad to apply! Questions? Email Nick Duarte, Curator of the Music & Sound Lab, at nduarte@fcmod.org.

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The Music Production Process

Have you ever wondered how the music you listen to made it to a streaming platform, CD, or the radio? Sure you’re aware the song is recorded in a studio, but then what happens? How does it get to sounding how it does, ready for an album? And then how does it get released from there? This blog will inform you about the processes of music production, and how our favorite songs we hear start from an idea, to a tangible recording in our hands!

Writing the song
Each artist has a different process for writing songs. Many well-known bands and singers will often have a producer. Producers have a very important role in the process of getting songs ready to release. They often help the songwriting process by making suggestions of what the artist could add or take out of the song they’ve written so far, whether it be changing the chord progression, adding a bridge, suggesting words for lyrics that fit better, or anything to improve the song! It’s also important to note that not all artists write their own songs. Often in pop music, a songwriter writes songs for specific singers. Did you know that Rihanna’s “Umbrella” was originally written by a handful of producers for Britney Spears to sing? She turned it down as she just finished her album, so it was floated over a couple artists until Rihanna accepted it. Once a song is written, it’s ready for the studio. Sometimes artists even go into the studio without having finished writing. Sometimes it’s because the producer will be there to help write, or the creative atmosphere of the studio helps the artist to write!

Recording
The recording process also looks different from artist to artist, but accomplishes the same thing. Professional recording sessions take place in a studio, where the rooms are specifically arranged for high quality sound. Rooms can be built specifically to absorb and reflect certain frequencies, and/or have sound proofing gear installed. Sometimes artists take a DIY approach and record their entire album using gear in their bedroom! In a professional setting, recording engineers oversee the process- placing mics properly on the instruments, getting appropriate levels set, making sure everything is set up to sound the best it can. Producers also help artists find the sounds that will help get the song’s vision across, whether it’s a special technique for setting up a microphone to get vocals sounding a certain way, or setting guitar tone. Then, a song is usually recorded over and over, with enough takes to have every part of the song sounding good. In a multi-instrumental band, drums are often recorded first so that each other musician has a foundation to overdub their parts. Overdubbing means recording a track over an already-existed recording track, so in this case, the drums are already recorded, and everything else can now be overdubbed. Bass is typically recorded second, then guitar and remaining instruments. Vocals are almost always last. With the digital technology in recording nowadays, it’s very easy for musicians to fix a measure or note they may have messed up, in which they will punch in. Punching in means the engineer will start the recording at the part where the mistake is, and the musician can simply play correctly over the wrong part without having to redo the whole song. Artists that recorded before this technology was available had to redo the entire song if there was one big mistake! However, even with this technology now, recording is a lengthy process, and one album may take months or years.

Mixing
After the recording is complete, it’s time for an engineer to mix the song. This means setting levels of each of the instruments, making sure they’re all well-balanced and heard in the song, as well as adding EQ and other things to make the song come to life. This process can take a couple days or weeks for one song, and months for an album. The artist communicates the vision they want for the song so the engineer can get the sounds dialed in and make it happen. The artist may want a warm, bright mix with punchy high frequencies for a pop tune or a darker mix with depth. The mixing process is just as creative as the songwriting process, the mix having the ability to transform the recording and give it a completely different feel. Often the engineer will send their mix to the artist, the artist will give feedback of what they want to sound different, the engineer makes a new mix, sends it over, and it happens all over again until the artist is satisfied.

Mastering
Once the mix is complete, the song needs to be mastered. Mastering is the process of getting a track ready for distribution by balancing it to be at the level of volume and quality of songs that are already established. The mastering engineer starts by bringing the track up in volume to be as loud as songs already out there. They may download an existing song to use as a reference track to set the level of the song they’re working with. This way, after the song is released, its volume isn’t a lot quieter than all the other songs on your playlist. Then, the mastering engineer may widen the mix with stereo enhancement (balancing the left and right of the audio). After that, more EQ and compression may be done to polish off the song.

Distribution
Now the song is ready for consumption! Artists will then decide how they want to release their music- on CD’s? Spotify? Youtube? At this point, the completed song file is submitted to distributors to make CD’s, Vinyl, tapes, uploaded on streaming services, or sent to radio stations. Now it’s a tangible product for anyone to access and listen to! Can you imagine your favorite songs going through these processes? There’s so much time and work that goes into one song that takes 3 minutes to listen to. Does that change how you view what you listen to?

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Hiss and Tell: All About Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches

Ever wanted to know more about the animals we have here at the museum? Grab a snack, and take a deep dive into the world of Madagascar hissing cockroaches from the comfort of your own home!

Madagascar hissing cockroaches are, you guessed it, native to Madagascar! Like all cockroaches, Madagascar hissing cockroaches (or “hissers” as they are sometimes called) are scavengers, which means they eat just about anything they come across. In the wilds of Madagascar, they mostly eat dead plant matter, from fallen leaves to rotten wood and decaying fruit. Here at the museum, they’re fed a scrumptious mixture of fruits and vegetables, and for a protein-boosting treat, their favorite: dog kibble!

Madagascar hissing cockroaches (right) live peacefully alongside giant cave cockroach adults (lower left) and nymphs (upper left) at the museum.

Unlike many species of cockroach, Madagascar hissing cockroaches are wingless. Instead of being able to fly away from predators, they have to rely on running and hiding. But what happens when this isn’t enough to keep them away from danger? That’s where the hissing comes in!

When threatened, these cockroaches make a loud hissing noise, like that of an angry cat or snake, that makes them sound much bigger and scarier than they actually are. Their strategy hinges on their would-be-predator becoming scared or surprised by this sudden noise—while cats and snakes hiss as a warning of an incoming attack, hissing cockroaches are otherwise defenseless, and have to make a run for it as soon as they get an opening.

But hissing cockroaches don’t just hiss to defend themselves. Amazingly, they actually have a number of distinct hisses they use to communicate different things to each other. Both male, female, and juvenile cockroaches will hiss defensively and in alarm, but there are two other hisses that only males use: the male-to-female courtship hiss, and the male-to-male dominance hiss.

Male Madagascar hissing cockroach at the museum, with visible “horns” on the dark-colored pronotum above the head.

While these cockroach’s bark may be worse than their bite, they can still pack a punch, at least when it comes to fighting other cockroaches. Speaking of dominance battles, male hissing cockroaches will often fight amongst themselves to establish a social hierarchy, and figure out who gets the best spot on the log or the best food.

But dominance displays between male cockroaches go beyond simple hissing. Male hissers can be differentiated by females from their “horns”, distinctive twin bumps on their pronotum (that’s the shield-like segment on the back of their head). They use these horns much like rams do—by headbutting other males in a display of strength. The male hissing cockroach will attempt to “bulldoze” under his opponent, knocking him off of his perch. However, the funniest part of a Madagascar hissing cockroach dominance battle is definitely the pre-fight posturing. In an attempt to intimidate the other male and end the contest before it begins, the cockroaches will wiggle their butts aggressively at each other. So scary!

Female hissing cockroaches, on the other hand, keep to themselves much more than the males, and will only hiss when they feel threatened. Unlike most species of cockroaches, Madagascar hissing cockroaches are ovoviviparous, which means that their young develop inside of eggs that stay within the mother’s body for the duration of their development. This differs from mammalian pregnancy because there is no direct placental link between the young cockroaches and their mother, but the end result is quite similar: Madagascar hissing cockroaches give live birth to their young, never actually laying their eggs before they hatch. They can give birth to anywhere between 15-40 baby cockroaches at a time!

Madagascar hissing cockroaches are unique in the insect world in a lot of ways, and it’s hard to decide which of their crazy adaptations is the strangest. But there’s one question we still haven’t explored: how do they make those loud hissing sounds? While most insects that make noise do so by rubbing parts of their body together, Madagascar hissing cockroaches actually use their spiracles (the cockroach equivalent of lungs). By pushing air out of the spiracles lining the side of their abdomen, they create audible vibrations in the air, making noise in basically the same way that we humans do when we talk!

Next time you’re in the museum, be sure to check out the Madagascar hissing cockroaches and say hello. While they may look quite different from you and I, we have more in common with them than you might expect!

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Biology Everywhere

Biology Everywhere

“I’m not good at science.”

“It’s too complicated.”

“I’m not smart enough.”

When Dr. Melanie Peffer encountered these attitudes teaching biology, she wanted to understand what makes the subject so scary. “I think that science is traditionally presented as so dry and abstract, people think that it is,” says Dr. Peffer. “So many students’ experience with biology is just memorizing terms, and if they have trouble doing that, then they think they can’t do it.”

Dr. Peffer’s new book, Biology Everywhere—which she will be virtually signing during a Fort Collins Museum of Discovery Facebook Live on February 19—seeks to reverse that belief. “I was inspired by that attitude of ‘never had a teacher who could teach me’,” says Dr. Peffer. Changing her approach, Dr. Peffer focuses on application rather than tossing terms at her students. Protein Biochemistry, for example, may seem really intimidating, but it’s not when you think about it in terms of cooking bacon. How it changes color, shape and size are all observable biological facts.

Biology intersects with life in so many beautiful ways. One of the most important finds of neuroscience was influenced by art. Nobel Peace Prize winner Santiago Ramón y Cajal love of drawing led to him to sketch neurons, and from those works of art we learned that nerve cells were independent cells that communicate through a network of synapses.

“It was a lot of fun to write the book. I took a lot of my inspiration from my son. Kids can give us a perspective on things that we forget.” Whether that means explaining what an exoskeleton is while walking past the crabs at the supermarket or exploring the anatomy of a honey locust pod at the park, Dr. Peffer is always excited to find biology in everyday life.

“A lot of people feel like they can’t do science,” says Dr. Peffer, “but I believe everyone can. It’s simply a matter of making it accessible.”


To order a copy of Biology Everywhere, please visit The Museum Store. Make sure to ask a question in the comment box when ordering and Dr. Peffer will answer it live!

To attend to the book signing, please join us on Facebook Live Friday, February 19 at 5:30 p.m.

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