By Coco Mault
Sure, fine art and grand sculptures are a feast for the eyes, but sometimes, you want your museum experience to be fun, interactive and just a little bit offbeat. We round up some of the Twin Cities’ most delightful exhibits. Check them out next time you want a fun learning experience.
The Bakken Museum
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Closed Sunday, Monday & Major Holidays. Museum hours subject to change.
Admission: Adults $7, Students & Seniors $5, Children younger than 4 and members are free.
A museum specializing in the science and history of electricity is bound to be exciting for many reasons, and the Bakken certainly is. One exciting ongoing exhibit they feature has to do with one of the most famous horror stories that history has ever known involving electricity: Frankenstein. Toward the back of the museum is a room devoted to a life-sized diorama. The room is divided between a seating area and an area that looks like a room in a scary old house. With the press of a button, the 12-minute story of Frankenstein’s monster begins. Like the book itself, a voice narrates the show and sounds as though the famous scientist is reading pages from his diary and lab notes. Lights dim, lightening flickers, and lights come up on various parts of the elaborate set. At one point the lights go out altogether, leaving only lightening, thunder claps, and two glaring red eyes that stare through a house window. It’s a spine-tingler, for sure. It’s alive! It’s alive!
Minnesota History Center
Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday; 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday (open Monday holidays year round).
Admission: $10 adults, $8 seniors (65+), $8 college students (valid ID), $5 children ages 6-17. Free to the public Tuesdays from 5 to 8 p.m. Always free for MHS members and children age 5 and under.
It’s easy to spend the better part of a day in the Minnesota History Center, but for their Weather Permitting exhibit, they bring the outdoors inside — and it’s not necessarily nice weather, either. In addition to highlighting extreme weather from Minnesota’s past, such as the frigid conditions of ice fishing, there is a dark and stormy offering entitled “Get to the Basement!” which is a 6-minute show about tornados that ravaged Fridley, Minnesota on May 6, 1965. The show comes with a warning that it may be too scary for youngsters.
Heck, after experiencing it, adults may say it’s too scary, too! The museum has done an excellent job of recreating a typical basement. Various knick-knacks cover the walls and shelves in the smallish room, and there is a bench that visitors to the basement are welcome to sit on. A small, rectangular window on “garden level” is the focal point of the room giving view to “outside”. There is a tree and grass outside the window. Soon, however, the leaves on the tree begin to flutter, and the sky becomes overcast. A television turns on warning of inclement weather.
As the storm progresses, the lights flicker on and off, the television fizzles out, and a radio turns on. And then, the electricity goes out so that all attention turns to the small windows. The sky has gone green and the tree falls over! There is an intense, loud rumbling — a tornado — before things are calm again. There is a welcome denouement to this experience, which is necessary after the inevitable increase in adrenaline as the wind steadily picks up. Luckily, upon exiting the basement, the museum is still intact.
The Museum of Broadcasting
Hours: Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Sunday through Tuesday and holidays.
Admission: Students and seniors $5, Adults $6
Formerly known as the Pavek Museum of Broadcasting, this large museum is dedicated to preserving the history of wireless broadcasting. As a result, this large warehouse-like space is full to the brim with old communication devices. One of which looks like an extremely large spiderweb, but instead of soft, silky strands, the netting is stiff and metallic.
It’s a replica of the morse code device used on the Titanic. And when a museum employee throws a switch to turn it on, sparks literally fly. Amid all of the radios, phonographs, televisions, and television memorabilia, make sure not to miss the museum’s television game show set. Three large podiums, complete with large digital number screens to keep track of points, stand near the front of the museum. A museum guide just may offer to play game show host by asking a few questions — be sure to buzz in before giving the answer!
Mill City Museum
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday noon to 5 p.m.. Also open Mondays in July and August (including 4th of July): 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving Day,
Admission: $10 adults, $8 seniors (65+), $8 college students (valid ID), $5 children ages 6-17
The ads for this museum make many proclamations: the best smelling museum, for instance, as well as the most explosive. Both are quite true statements. The Mill City Museum explores the history of Minneapolis, specifically its flour milling roots.
As a result, this museum has an in-house kitchen where bread is often baking, creating a delicious smell. It’s a smell that may lull some museum-goers into feeling cozy, homey, and relaxed. The folks at the Mill City Museum know some museum-goers want more excitement than watching yeast rise, however, so there is also their famous Flour Tour elevator tour. You see, this is a museum where not only the bread dough rises, so do the visitors. Museum visitors have the chance to ride in a freight elevator (it’s been equipped with seating) and travel to eight floors.
On each floor, the factory has been recreated. As the elevator doors open visitors will have the chance to see from the elevator recreated working flour mill. It’s a loud, rumbling exhibit. Just remember, the flour mills have an explosive history — literally — so keep that in mind.