FCMoD at SXSW 2019

Post written by Ben Gondrez, Dome Theater Manager.

FCMoD at SXSW 2019

This March, thousands of creatives gathered in Austin, Texas for South by Southwest (SXSW). While many are familiar with the SXSW music festival, this annual series of festivals and conferences is designed to celebrate the convergence of the interactive, film, and music industries. Founded in 1987, SXSW features leaders in each of those areas to come and present about various topics and emerging trends.

This spring, I was invited to participate on a panel discussion hosted during the SXSW Interactive conference. The panel, titled “Do it in a Dome! The Planetarium as an Arts Medium“, was organized by Dani LeBlanc, director of the Charles Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Science Boston. Along with Dani and myself, the panel included Monica Bolles, an artist developing experiences for dome environments, and James Wetzel, co-producer of adult programs at the Museum of Science Boston. Each of us had the opportunity to tell our stories of utilizing planetarium domes in new and innovative ways to engage with the arts. With most modern planetariums now operating with digital projections, the possibilities for what can be shown on the dome screen are no longer limited to stars and other celestial objects. This has enabled the creation of some truly impressive immersive art experiences.

Image Courtesy: Museum of Science Boston

At the Museum of Science Boston, Dani and James, along with the rest of their production team, have begun to program some very interesting events for adult audiences. Though some are surprised that a science museum would be hosting a live band or screening an immersive art piece, the team believes that in order to stay relevant to today’s audiences, science museum’s should be experimenting and broadening the horizons of what they can offer the community. Similarly to us here at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery (FCMoD), one way they’ve found to engage with their local creative community is through hosting live music performances in the dome that utilize the space in new and unique ways. Hosting live music under the dome creates a completely different experience than you would get at a more traditional venue; the experience becomes about the interesting ways the dome is used to compliment the live performance. Another use of the planetarium Dani and James have explored is hosting drag performances. The shows started as a surprise pop-up performance after their “Lady Gaga Experience” show but has since become a mainstay on its own. The producers at the museum work alongside local drag show producer Ian Diver to create these unique immersive performances, and have received a lot of support and a great response from the local community and media.

Image Courtesy: Museum of Science Boston, Jonathan Beckley

At first glance it may seem strange that planetariums, historically used for educating the public on astronomical topics, are now branching out and offering new experiences like live music, drag shows, or immersive art performances. While the mission of planetariums is to communicate science and astronomy to the public is absolutely vital, many institutions are beginning to branch out. Through these unique events, organizations like Museum of Science Boston and FCMoD are finding new ways to attract audiences that wouldn’t normally consider the local museum a place for them. Using planetariums for arts not only expands what was previously thought possible in these spaces; it is also changing the ways in which people are interacting with them. As these new audiences are finding that these spaces are for them as well, they are then becoming not only audience members but co-creators.

Here at FCMoD, we hope to encourage future dome artists and creatives through our DomeLab program. DomeLab is a regular meetup that offers the opportunity for anyone to come to the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater, learn how to create immersive experiences, and work with other creatives on projects to showcase there. This free program is open to anyone who wants to flex their creativity, whether they are a filmmaker, storyteller, musician, painter, photographer, or work with another medium; all are welcome. Come participate in creating the next generation of immersive experiences in the dome!

DomeLab meets every-other Tuesday at 7pm. For more information, follow us on Facebook or visit the museum’s event calendar.

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Geek Week: Gaming in in the Dome

Post written by Ben Gondrez, Digital Dome Manager.

Gaming in the Dome

Video games have certainly come a long way since they first began to become popular in the early 1970s. The first truly successful home video game was of course Pong, released in 1975 by Atari. The game consisted simply of a square icon that bounced from side to side on the screen as opponents blocked it from going off-screen with cursors that moved up and down to block it’s path and bounce it back to the other opponent. Controlled simply by a couple of knobs that each opponent would turn to move their cursor up and down, the game was simple yet extremely fun and engaging, especially as it sped up as the game progressed.

Photo courtesy of Flickr: mbiebusch

These days video games are not only much more advanced from a technical standpoint but also take into consideration things like narrative storytelling, the soundtrack and audio experience, multi-player experiences, and many more factors that create more and more immersive gaming experiences. With the rise in virtual reality these experiences are taking gaming to a whole new level by not only showing the players a different world, but seemingly transporting them there in person to experience all that a game and it’s virtual world has to offer. Probably the most popular VR game right now hearkens back to the days of Pong with it’s simplistic, yet completely addicting, game-play. This game of course is Beat Saber, the game where you are armed with two lightsabers slashing objects coming towards you all set to fun, dance-inducing music. Also, by incorporating whole-body motions like ducking under obstacles, this game fully immerses the player, and so many people get into it that it almost becomes a fitness workout. Games like this and other VR experiences create a powerful compelling alternate reality by overcoming your field of vision so that you can believe you’ve been transported to that reality instead of just viewing it on a screen.

Photo courtesy of Youtube: Ruirize

Here at the museum we have the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater, a 360° Dome theater that is a very similar experience to virtual reality, except for an entire audience! The Dome’s screen wraps all around and above the audience whose seats are reclined to be able to comfortably look up to take in the virtual worlds presented on it. Equipped with state-of-the-art high resolution digital projectors, the Dome can transport audiences anywhere the imagination can take you from deep under the ocean, to the farthest known reaches of the universe, to completely fictional worlds. There is truly no limit to where you can go in the Dome. One common remark we get after people experience the dome for the first time is “wouldn’t it be cool to play games on this!?” Well, you can!

During Geek Week, a week of programs that we hold here at FCMoD each year over Spring Break, you’ll be able to experience immersive gaming, and more, right here in the Dome! On Tuesday, March 19th from 10am – 3pm we’ll have a number of games available that have been created just for the Dome so that you can stop by, grab a controller and experience the future of immersive gaming in the Dome for yourself. Some of these are retro-inspired games like Space Invasion (inspired of course by the classic arcade game Space Invaders), but remade for the impressive 39-foot diameter dome screen. Others, like one game titled Xur, uses common game mechanics but with a 360° twist to make it even more challenging and fun to play on the Dome. Be sure to join us for this totally unique gaming experience, as well as the other days of Geek Week where we’ll be flying around the universe, holding Harry Potter Divination classes, and learning about the astronomical origins of superheroes.

Photo Courtesy of Evans & Sutherland

 

Check out fcmod.org/geekweek for other events this week!

Join us for Geek Week: Gamers Save the World on March 19.

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Geek Week: A Magical Gathering for Fantasy Fanatics

Post written by Charlotte Conway, Public Programs Assistant.

A Magical Gathering for Fantasy Fanatics

I cannot wait to meet all the witches, wizards, and muggles alike who will attend this year’s Fantasy Fanatics day at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery’s wondrous Geek Week. We Hufflepuffs certainly do appreciate a friendly gathering. And with so many magical things to do, it’s a wonder where I will start this year!

I may just begin in my favorite section of the museum, with the animals! In my years at Hogwarts, we were permitted the usual creatures – cats, rats, and owls. There was always the occasional dragon or phoenix on school grounds as well. But what excites me most about this year’s Fantasty Fanatics day are the real Fantastic Beasts. I may have heard of or even seen some of these creatures before, but I never had the opportunity to see them so up close. And I will finally have the chance to ask all my questions to some expert beast handlers as well.

I even heard rumors there may be dragons at this year’s Geek Week. Not to worry, I am certain they will be well contained. They so rarely escape, and besides, they are miniature this year! Those fire-breathing creatures are so small you can even take one home with you. I am just so excited to see all those fascinating creatures!

Of course I won’t be ready for the day without my wizarding attire first. A quick stop at the Costume-Making and Photo Booth station should prepare me with the proper Hufflepuff attire. I simply must wear my yellow tie so everyone knows my House. There will be costumes for simply everyone – even the muggles can become magical with a little costuming and a lot of imagination!

Once I have my clothing in order, I suppose I will need to make my wand next. Each wand is unique to its wizard, you know! Once I have my wand, it would be in good form to learn some powerful spells to perform. I may need them for protection against the dragons! It will be wonderful to learn alongside so many upcoming witches and wizards, too. I even hear they may allow muggles to try out some spells!

Next, I will certainly need to make my way to Divination Class. Divination is spectacular, and it connects with the muggle science of astronomy! Muggles have come so far in their understanding of the planets and stars. We can learn a lot from their scientists and astronomers.

Speaking of science, I hear they may be concocting a special class on the Science of Mermaids at this year’s Geek Week, too. I try to avoid those aquatic humanoids on school grounds – they can be quite unpleasant when provoked. The Mermaids at Geek Week seem to be of another sort entirely, though! I’ll be quite pleased to see what they have planned for this unique learning experience!

With such a marvelous assortment of exciting, educational activities, muggles and wizards alike will rejoice! Where will you start this year?

Check out fcmod.org/geekweek for other events this week!

Join us for Geek Week: Fantasy Fanatics on March 21.

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Geek Week: Superhero Showdown

Post written by Jason Wolvington, Associate Director.

Superhero Showdown

I remember the day clearly.

I was in 4th grade, and home sick for the day. You know how those days went: simultaneously happy to not be in school, but disappointed you couldn’t enjoy it because you were feeling so bad. Stuck in your room, there wasn’t much to do but rest, assuming you hadn’t faked it for the day (I didn’t, I promise). In my case, resting meant curling up in my bed reading tattered old Uncle Scrooge comic books I had accumulated over the years. When Dad came home from work later that night, he handed me fresh a stack of comics he picked up at the local 7-11 to help me feel better. As I flipped through the books, I stopped on a random issue of Spider-Man that was mixed into the stack. What happened next was pure magic.

What’s this?! I don’t read these kind of comics!  *scoffs at idea of superhero comics* Where’s my Disney?!  *stares in disgust at the Spider-man cover*   Where’s my Rocky and Bullwinkle?! *begins to flip through the unfamiliar pages of Spider-Man* Where’s my…..?!  *sentence cuts off as eyes grow wider by the amazingness of this new superhero world* And that’s how my love for superhero comics began. I’m still an avid comic book collector to this day, no doubt using my super-human museum skills to help organize, preserve, and protect my collection. Sure, I love the monthly adventures of my favorite superheroes, but I think deep down it’s much more about what comic books do overall: as a kid, they inspire awe and ignite your creativity and imagination (remind me to tell you one day about the “Atomic Chicken” comic I created in junior high). And as an adult, they’re an escape from pressures of the world around us, and a platform for powerful storytelling on a variety of subjects.

All that said – and unsurprising to you, I’m sure – I’m a total geek. And let’s face it: I know there’s more out there. You know who you are.

You who love to watch Star Wars every single time it’s on TV. Who catches up on the latest Game of Thrones theories, and won’t realize you missed dinner because you were so immersed in your latest video game adventure.

At FCMoD, we love geeks. And we love nerds, too. You’re the ones who keep life interesting, never stop exploring, and are always looking for ways to make the world a better place.

Welcome to #GeekWeek, friends…hope you enjoy your stay.

Check out fcmod.org/geekweek for details on the festivities!

Join us for Geek Week: Superhero Showdown on March 22.

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Geek Week: Sci-Fi Strikes Back

Post written by Charlotte Conway, Public Programs Assistant.

Sci-Fi Strikes Back

On the surface, science and fiction may appear to be complete opposites. Fiction tells us stories about people, places, and things that are imaginary. Science gives us knowledge about our world through observation and experimentation. Yet, the two are not as dissimilar as they seem. In fact, science fiction, the genre dedicated to imagining the world through the science and technology of the future, has helped many scientists with their work in the real world!

Take, for example, the inventor of the submarine. American scientist Simon Lake was inspired by the undersea adventures in the science fiction novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne! And Lake is not alone in drawing inspiration from science fiction: the inventor of the cell phone, Martin Cooper, gives credit to the communication devices he saw on the show Star Trek.

In our modern world, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) has garnered a lot of attention, and for good reason. In the 21st century, many jobs will lie in the STEM fields. Yet without the arts, even the most advanced scientists can lack the imagination necessary to developing creative solutions.  A large part of the engineering process is to imagine possible solutions to a problem. And when those solutions don’t work, it’s back to the drawing board to come up with new ideas.

Through a stretch of the imagination, sophisticated scientific advances can be made!

 

Check out fcmod.org/geekweek for other events this week!

Join us for Geek Week: Sci-Fi Strikes Back on March 20.

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Honoring Dee Wanger

Post written by Kristin Rush, Marketing & Communications Manager. 

At this year’s Celebration of Gratitude, the museum’s annual event recognizing the support of donors, volunteers, and Founders, FCMoD honored Dee Wanger. Dee is the woman responsible for the establishment of a little organization back in the eighties called the Discovery Science Center (ever heard of it?). Thanks to Dee, and a number of highly motivated community members, their dream of an interactive, engaging, and hands-on organization focusing on science and technology for children came to life. At the museum’s Celebration of Gratitude, Dee gave the timeline of events that led to where we are now:

1986: Dee visited the Houston Children’s Museum and thought, “Fort Collins could use something like this!”

1987: Dee turned to the yellow pages, calling about six different museums to ask about what it takes to create a museum from the ground up.

1988: The ball began rolling and did not stop! Dee attended the Boston Children’s Museum seminar in April and then, in October of 1988, Dee and 15-20 people came together to begin the process of opening a museum in Fort Collins.

1989: In March of 1989, with the help of $50 donations from committee members recruited by Dee, the Northern Colorado Children’s Museum became incorporated. In the same year, it was officially renamed the Discovery Science Center.

It took 2.5 years to go from concept to launch. The Discover Science Center was located in the old Barton Elementary School off of Prospect Rd. When discussion began of merging the Discovery Science Center with the Fort Collins Museum in 2008, the Discovery Science Center temporarily relocated into the Fort Collins Museum’s building, then located in Library Park. After that, as they say, the rest is history. The two organizations then became what the museum is now: the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

Dee giving her remarks and being honored at Celebration of Gratitude, April 23rd, 2018.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

As Dee said at Celebration of Gratitude, “Then, as now, it was with the contributions of time, talent, energy and funding by passionate, dedicated people that has enabled the museum to grow and thrive beyond a current vision. I have tremendous gratitude for that.”

“At the time, we had a vision, but I think the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery has far-surpassed what we could imagine.”

Thank you, Dee, for your time, talent, energy and passion. We wouldn’t be here without you.

The museum relies on the generosity of you – our community – to do everything we do. Please consider donating to support explorations in science and culture for all.

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Bowling in Fort Collins

According to Evadene Swanson, “Lindenmeier’s ‘Board of Trade’ on College near the Opera House had a bowling alley in 1880” (Fort Collins Yesterdays, page 136).  Does that surprise you? It surprised me! By the late 1800s, prosperous cities in the USA were installing regulation-size bowling lanes, often subsidized by churches, YMCAs, firehouses, and fraternal organizations. I dug up a few Fort Collins bowling photos to share with you – none are from the 1880s, but I hope you enjoy them nonetheless.

Though undated, this shot is clearly from an era when bowlers had serious sartorial standards: Behold the Bowling League Champs – BPOE Elks Fraternal Organization, Fort Collins.

This shot from circa 1928 shows the 100 block of North College Avenue (looking south).  In addition to the Collins Cafe, Sugar Bowl, and Marshall Cafeteria, the Bowling sign is clearly visible in the photo.

This 1950s-ish image of the Hutchison Pharmacy ladies bowling team (Fort Collins) highlights the pharmacy’s advertising as well as the women’s splendid hairstyles.

The Colorado State Bowling Tournament in 1960 was held in Fort Collins, Colorado.  Identified here are, left to right: Ray Carpenter, D. Weigand, Doc Carroll, Floyd Headlee, and taller-than-average-fella “unknown.”

And last but not least, here are two cool cats from 1969.

Here’s the caption from the May 12, 1969 Coloradoan:  “State Doubles Champs: Jack Hall, 16, of 1030 Akin Street and Margee Deering, 14, of 120 Tedmon Drive teamed together to knock down 1,278 pins and win the 1969 Colorado Junior Mixed Doubles championship. The two were among more than 100 Fort Collins junior bowlers honored Sunday night during the annual Youth Bowling Association awards banquet.”

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Remembering the 1997 Spring Creek Flood

July 28, 2017 marks 20 years since Fort Collins experienced the one of the biggest natural disasters in its history.

A slow moving storm cell on July 27-28, 1997 stalled over Fort Collins and dumped 14.5 inches of rain in 31 hours creating flash flooding that wreaked havoc on parts of Fort Collins. One of the hardest hit places was the Spring Creek area west of College Avenue. Debris clogged a railroad underpass which caused water to back up into a Johnson Mobile Home Park where 5 people were killed.

Flood waters also damaged numerous buildings on the campus of CSU including the basement and first floor of the library. In the aftermath of the disaster the City of Fort Collins implemented extensive flood mitigation planning that has shaped the landscape of Fort Collins. This work resulted in Fort Collins avoiding the extensive damage that ravaged much of northern Colorado during the 2013 floods.

Spring Creek Flood Resources

  • The Follow the Flood Event and Remembrance Ceremony is taking place on July 28th at Creekside Park beginning at 6:30 pm. Flood Education Day is July 29 at Spring Park. Learn more about both events here.
  • You can also learn more about the flood at the Fort Collins History Connection.
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Growing “up” – Fort Collins’ first skyscrapers

These days, a drive around Fort Collins always includes orange traffic cones, route deviations, and a horizon line crossed with a building crane. We are growing, aren’t we? Fort Collins residents of the 1960s felt the pressure of growth as well:

“City planners were hard pressed to keep up with the city’s growth, especially in the rapidly developing suburbs. Fort Collins’ population almost tripled between 1950 and 1970. New industries, such as Kodak and Aqua Tec, were locating in the area, attracting more people. The Chamber of Commerce reported that industrial employment rose from 1,068 in 1960 to 3,411 in 1969. Builders tried to keep pace with the growth as all-time records were set for private construction. A consequence of these efforts was the building of Fort Collins’ first skyscrapers. The twelve-story First National Bank Tower and the eleven-story Home Federal Savings Building (now Norwest) were built in 1968.”  (From “Timeline 1960”, www.history.fcgov.com  )

Plans for First National Bank’s twelve-story “condominium” office building at 205 West Oak were publicly announced on November 19, 1967; less than two years later, Fort Collins residents celebrated its completion.  According to the Denver Post, “An estimated 12,000 persons attended the recent one week long celebration opening the First National Bank’s 12 story building” (7-6-1969 4/5).

Here’s a shot of the “new” building from June 16, 1969:   

Here’s a ribbon-cutting picture taken at the opening, also from June 16, 1969:  

 

This aerial shot shows the cityscape northeast of the new tower:   

 

Building is a messy process.  To actualize this (a rendering of the “new” courthouse, circa 1969): 

 

You gotta go through a lot of this:        and

 

 

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Art as Science: Early Botanical Artists

RARE II – at FCMoD from May 6 to August 6 – is an exhibit of contemporary botanical illustrations depicting globally imperiled plants found in Colorado. Members of the Rocky Mountain Society of Botanical Artists created these works of art using the Master List of Rare Plants (produced by the Colorado Natural Heritage Program). I hope you have a chance to see this rare combination of scientific accuracy, aesthetic appeal, and technical mastery.

Which brings me to my subject today:  a glimpse at the role botanical illustration played in the early history of science.

Surgeons traveling with the Roman army – including Greeks Dioscorides (circa 40-90 AD) and Galen (131-200 AD) – compiled herbals (text + drawings) that remained the primary materia medica texts for centuries (by some accounts, at least 1500 years). Herbalism traditions were preserved through the middle ages in the monasteries of Britain and Europe, where monks copied and translated works of  Hippocrates, Dioscorides, Galen, and non-Western scientists like Ibn Sina (aka Avicenna). The advent of the printing press in the mid-fifteenth century created unprecedented access to mass-produced books, some of which included botanical illustration. (Details in this paragraph drawn from the University of Virginia’s Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, exhibits.hsl.virginia.edu/herbs/brief-history/ ).

So, Printing press + Woodcut illustrations (later lithographs) = Beautiful botanical books of both scientific and aesthetic value.

For more details about the background of botanical illustration, check out these folks:

  • 16th century, Leonhart Fuchs
  • 17th century, Maria Sibylla Merian
  • 18th century, Pierre-Joseph Redouté
  • 19th century, Pieter de Pannemaeker (Ghent) and Emily Stackhouse (Cornwall)

And enjoy the Rare II exhibit!

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