Museum of Science in Cambridge

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The Museum of Science (MoS) is a Boston, Massachusetts landmark, located in Science Park, a plot of land spanning the Charles River. Along with over 500 interactive exhibits, the Museum features a number of live presentations throughout the building every day, along with shows at the Charles Hayden Planetarium and the Mugar Omni IMAX theater, the only domed IMAX screen in New England. The Museum is also an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is home to over 100 animals, many of which have been rescued and rehabilitated from various dangerous situations. The Museum is also one of the city's three bases of operations for Boston's privately operated Duck Tours.


The Museum began as the Boston Society of Natural History in 1830, founded by a collection of men who wished to share scientific interests. In essence, the museum began as a place where these men could store and display skins and other trophies of their travels to Africa and Asia. Today, a number of taxidermed specimens remain on display, much as they do at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, as well as many other museums, teaching children about the animals of New England and of the world. In 1864, after the Society had gone through several temporary facilities, a building was purchased in the Back Bay area of the city and dubbed the "New England Museum of Natural History." There it remained through World War II, presumably growing and changing over the decades into more of a science museum and less of a gentleman's club for safari trophies.

After the war, this building was sold, and the museum was reestablished under the name "Boston Museum of Science". Under the leadership of Bradford Washburn, the Society negotiated with the Metropolitan District Commission for a 99-year lease of the land now known as Science Park. The Museum pays $1 a year to the state for use of the land. Construction and development began in 1948, and the Museum opened in 1951, arguably the first all-encompassing science museum in the country. In these first few years, the Museum developed a traveling planetarium, a version of which is still brought to many elementary schools in the Greater Boston area every year. They also obtained during these early years "Spooky," a great horned owl who became a symbol or mascot of the Museum; he lived to age 38, the longest any great horned owl is known to have lived.

The Science Park/West End MBTA station was opened in 1956, and the Charles Hayden Planetarium in 1958.

Many more expansions continued into the 1970s and 1980s. In 1999, The Computer Museum in Boston closed and became part of the Museum of Science, integrating some of its displays, although the collection moved to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.

A major renovation and expansion took place during 2005 and 2006.

Historical exhibits

  • In the 1950s, a small Wilson cloud chamber was featured in the main entrance hall. Visitors could come within inches of radioactive material to watch the vapor trails of the particles they emitted.
  • The first Fresnel lens used in a lighthouse in the U.S. (Navesink lighthouse), was on display from the early 1950s until 1979.
  • From August to October 2004, the Museum was host to the U.S. premiere of The Lord of the Rings the Motion Picture Trilogy the Exhibition, developed by the Te Papa museum in New Zealand, and containing many of the costumes and props from the films.
  • "Gunther von Hagens' Body Worlds 2: The Anatomical Exhibition of Real Human Bodies" was at the Museum of Science from July 29, 2006 to January 7, 2007.
  • From October 25, 2009 - February 21, 2010, "Harry Potter The Exhibition" was at the museum.

Computing section

Although the history artifacts of "The Computer Museum" were moved to Silicon Valley and forms the current Computer History Museum, TCM educational exhibits and objects were transferred to the Boston Museum of Science where two new computing and technology exhibits were created. One, The Computing Revolution, relates the history of computing through a variety of hands-on interactive exhibits, while the other, Cahners Computer Place, houses displays ranging from educational video games to an interactive AIBO ERS-7.

Other attractions

  • The Museum's Theater of Electricity contains the world's largest Van de Graaff generator, designed by Dr. Robert J. Van de Graaff himself and donated by MIT in 1956.
  • The Current Science & Technology Center's live presentations are in a constant state of development, keeping up with the cutting edge of science & technology news, and offering several very informative and interesting "Updates in Science & Technology" presentations every day. CS&T presentations are also often aired on New England Cable News (NECN). A CS&T podcast is also available for updates on-the-go.
  • The Museum has developed a to-scale community solar system model that spans as far as the Riverside MBTA station (in Newton, Massachusetts). The models of the Sun, Mercury and Venus are located on the Museum grounds.
  • The Museum of Science built and designed its own film-based exhibit, entitled . It was on display there from October 2005 to April 2006. The exhibit is now traveling.
  • The MIT Daedalus human-powered aircraft hangs in the entry lobby of the museum as does Decavitator, MIT's human-powered high-speed boat.
  • Design Challenges, a hands on engineering program, offers different activities, depending on the day, that deal with solving a variety of problems.
  • The Discovery Center ( offers parents the opportunity to talk with cognitive scientists, for kids to participate in experiments, and everyone to learn through inquiry and play.
  • Construction began on a rooftop Wind Turbine Lab in 2009. The Lab will test nine wind turbines from five different manufacturers on the roof of the Museum. An exhibit in the Blue Wing, Catching the Wind, includes a live data stream on how much electricity each turbine is producing.
  • Across from the Museum's gift shop lies a 24-hour Foucault pendulum.
  • The museum offers a "Camp-In" program to students in grades 1-7 allowing them to spend a night at the museum.
  • There is a simulator ride near the musical stairs.

See also

  • Boston Society of Natural History, predecessor to the museum

External links