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Technology Museums Offer Something for Every Interest

-July 01, 2000




Museums often find homes in unusual places. The National Museum of Technology in Paris, France,  includes a 12th-century chapel among the buildings that hold some of its exhibits. The museum's main exhibits now reside in a new building in Plaine St. Denis, north of Paris. (Courtesy of  French Technology Press Office.)

The next time you travel to a new area, you may want to set aside time to visit one of the many technical museums that seem to spring out of nowhere. We've found museums devoted to computers and others devoted to radio tubes. If you can name a topic, you probably can find a museum that houses related references and artifacts.

The museums in the list below represent only a thin slice of those available around the world. We purposely avoided the well-known attractions such as the Boston Museum of Science, the New Hayden Planetarium, and the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

We've tried to limit our list to museums with a major emphasis on technology—whether it's embodies in model aircraft, semiconductors, or coal mines. You're sure to find your own gems and oddities by spending a few hours searching the Web and by tracking down information in tour guides and in museum lists.

If we missed your favorite technical museum, whether it's a large formal museum or a small but significant exhibition, send an e-mail message to us at tmw@reedbusiness.com and let us know how to find out more about it. We'll need a complete name; a location, simple description, and Web address will also help. We'll see what we can find and if it looks interesting, we'll add it to our list. Check our Website for new additions.

Before you schedule a visit to any museum, find out when it will be open. Museum hours and days of operation vary, so check Web sites or call for current information, directions, and admission prices. Museums undergo renovations, too, so some exhibits may not be open at all times. And not all museums provide signs and display information in English. T&MW

United States

Alabama

US Space and Rocket Center
Huntsville, AL
256-837-3400
www.ussrc.com

The Center houses hundreds of artifacts, including the charred Apollo 16 command module, a rock brought back from the moon, and one of the main engines that flew on space shuttle Columbia's maiden voyage in 1981. The center is the home for US Space Camps, a youth science-activities program. Hundreds of thousands of young people and adults from all 50 states and dozens of foreign countries have participated in Space Camp and Space Academy astronaut training activities since the program began in 1982. The program encourages young people to pursue careers in science, technology, and aerospace industries by giving them a firsthand introduction to the exciting work being done in the space program.

California

Computer Museum of America
Coleman
La Mesa, CA
619-465-8226
www.computer-museum.org

This museum honors the major milestones in the development of the computer industry, and it chronicles those milestones for the enrichment and education of all. The museum continues to collect and preserve historic computer equipment, and it displays portions of its collection every year at the California Computer Expo (formerly the San Diego Computer Fair). The Computer Museum of America was established in 1983 by Jim and Marie Petroff, founders of the San Diego Chapter of Independent Computer Consultants Association (ICCA). (The entire San Diego Computer Museum holdings and collections have been gifted to San Diego State University Library, but The San Diego Computer Museum will continue to provide Web-based exhibits and features.)

Intel Museum
Intel Corp.
Robert Noyce Building, Main Lobby
Santa Clara, CA
408-765-0503
www.intel.com/museum/

At the Intel Museum in Santa Clara, you can experience the power of computer chips first hand and can learn about the evolution of their development. Exhibits show and describe how computer chips are made and used. Visitors learn to distinguish a microprocessor from memory and embedded control chips, and they see how integrated circuits, or chips, are constructed on wafers of silicon, layer upon layer. A microprocessor, the size of a dime, is enlarged to a ten-foot square. Light patterns and animated voices explain the chip's main functional areas and how it processes information. 

You can also trace the history of microprocessors, discover how they've evolved, and who designs them. You'll also learn about the extraordinarily clean rooms where chips are made and the rituals of donning a bunny suit.

The Exploratorium
San Francisco, CA
415-397-5673
www.exploratorium.edu

The Exploratorium, housed within San Francisco's Palace of Fine Arts, offers visitors a collage of 650 science, art, and human perception exhibits. Hands-on and working exhibits demonstrate basic scientific and technological principles.

The Tech Museum of Innovation
San Jose, CA
408-294-8324
www.thetech.org

The museum, located in downtown San Jose, provides an educational resource established to engage people of all ages and backgrounds in exploring and experiencing technologies affecting their lives, and to inspire the young to become innovators in the technologies of the future. The museum aims to inspire students with exhibit and lab experiences, offer teachers training and access to applications of current technologies, reinforce and complement classroom work, and enable visitors to discover new insights into technology and the process of innovation.

Indiana

National Model Aviation Museum
Academy of Model Aeronautics
International Aeromodeling Center
Muncie, IN
765-287-1256
www.modelaircraft.org/museum.aspx

This museum contains the largest collection of model aircraft in the US. Visitors discover how "aeromodeling" helped change the world of aviation, and they can examine the astonishing craftsmanship and artistry of masters modelers. During the summer months, you can visit the 1000-acre flying site and see members fly their aircraft in competitions. National championships take place on weekends in July and August.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Museum
Cambridge, MA
617-253-4462
web.mit.edu/museum/index.html

The MIT Museum's Main Exhibition Center features holography, hacks, and a host of changing science and technology exhibitions. Visitors may explore virtual reality in the holography exhibition, build and exhibit their own fanciful structures in MathSpace, discover the ingenuity of generations of MIT grads in the MIT Hall of Hacks, or produce fascinating stroboscopic effects with Doc Edgerton's "Remarkable Single Piddler Hydraulic Happening Machine."

Charles River Museum of Industry
Waltham, MA
617-893-5410 
www.crmi.org/

The Museum of Industry is a center for exploration of the history of industry and technology and for the study of the dynamic process of innovation. The museum aims to inspire future innovation in America. Exhibits highlight and display the story of the American Industrial Revolution. The current collection focuses on machine tools, watches and watch-making equipment, steam engines and early automobile manufacturing, and textile mill equipment. Recently, the museum has begun to expand its collection to include the present and future of technology, as well as the preservation of old technology.

Michigan

Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village
Dearborn, MI
313-271-1620
www.hfmgv.org

The Henry Ford Museum offers a chronicle of American ingenuity and innovation. Its collection of Americana depicts transportation, manufacturing, home life, entertainment and technology. You also can visit a reconstruction of Thomas Edison's Menlo Park, NJ, laboratory, the first industrial research laboratory.

New Mexico

The Bradbury Science Museum
Los Alamos Historical Museum
Los Alamos NM
505-662-4493
www.lanl.gov/external/museum/museum/overview.html

The Bradbury Science Museum includes as its goals: interpreting the research, activities, and history of the Los Alamos National Laboratory for the general public and lab employees. It also promotes understanding of the lab's role in national security programs, assists taxpayers in making informed judgments in these matters, and contributes to visitors' knowledge of science and technology. The Museum also acts to improve the quality of math and science education in northern New Mexico.

Ohio

National Inventors Hall of Fame
Akron, OH
330-762-6565
www.invent.org

The National Inventors Hall of Fame, located at Inventure Place, celebrates the creative and entrepreneurial spirit of great inventors. Its exhibits and presentations let visitors experience the excitement of discovery, creativity, and imagination. The National Inventors Hall of Fame promotes inventiveness and creativity throughout the United States through such programs as Camp Invention and the Collegiate Inventors Competition as well as video productions and nationally traveling exhibitions.

US Air Force Museum
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
Dayton, OH
513-255-3284
www.wpafb.af.mil/museum/

The Museum uses both chronological and subjective layouts to tell the story of aviation development from the days of the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk to the Space Age. Exhibits include over 300 aircraft, such as the B-25 (converted replica of Doolittle Raider), B-29 ("Bockscar"), B-36, F-86 (several models), X-15, Tu Bear-H, Ju88 (Romanian), He-111, Spitfire in USAAF markings, A-10 (Desert Storm vet), and the Apollo 15 Command Module.

Tennessee

American Museum of Science and Energy
Oak Ridge, TN
423-576-3200
www.amse.org

The museum schedules daily demonstrations, videos, and other programs. Demonstrations include "Atom and Atom Smashers" (two to three times daily), which combines a discussion of basic atomic structure with a "hair raising" demonstration of static electricity. Harnessed Atom, a large model of a nuclear reactor, serves as the centerpiece of a lecture and demonstration on nuclear power and the operation of nuclear reactors.

Texas

The Science Place
Dallas, TX
214-428-5555
www.scienceplace.org

The Science Place helps people of all ages understand how things work: everything from the solar system to honey bees, from dinosaurs to sound waves. Kids can use their senses and imagination to understand the wonders of science and mathematics. Science Place offers children and their parents an opportunity to make discoveries through hands-on exhibits, workshops, and special programs.

Washington, DC

National Air and Space Museum
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC
www.nasm.si.edu/

The Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum maintains the largest collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft in the world. It is also a vital center for research into the history, science, and technology of aviation and space flight. The Museum's displays include artifacts such as the original Wright 1903 Flyer, the "Spirit of St. Louis," the Apollo 11 command module, and a Lunar rock sample that visitors can touch.

Canada

Hammond Museum of Radio
Guelph, ON
519-822-2441
www.hammondmuseumofradio.org/

The Hammond Museum of Radio got its start when museum founder Fred Hammond began collecting early radio and wireless artifacts at the age of 16. Today, the museum displays hundreds of receivers and transmitters dating from the spark era up to solid-state equipment.

Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site
Baddeck, NS
902-295-2069
www.pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/ns/grahambell/index_e.asp

The major historical resources at the site include the large collection of artifacts related to Alexander Graham Bell's research, which he conducted both at Baddeck and elsewhere. These resources include books, photographs, and copies of material from Bell's personal archives, as well as personal items and awards he received during his lifetime. Most artifacts are original, but some are copies of original transcriptions located elsewhere.

Marconi National Historic Site
Baddeck, NS
902-295-2069
www.pc.gc.ca/lhn-nhs/ns/marconi/index_e.asp

Here, you'll learn about the life and work of Guglielmo Marconi, the Wizard of Wireless. Marconi proved it was possible to send messages across the Atlantic using electromagnetic waves instead of wires. Photographs, artifacts, and models detail the events of Marconi's life. The exhibits reveal Marconi as a brilliant young inventor, a tireless physicist, and a man more comfortable in the solitude of his yacht's seagoing laboratory than as an international celebrity.

Austria

Vienna Museum of Technology
Vienna
+43-1-89998, ext. 1600
www.tmw.ac.at/english/index.htm

The redesigned Vienna Museum of Technology offers a place where visitors can examine various perceptions of the nature and meaning of technology. Technological change is presented as a part of general history, and technology is shown as a complex cultural phenomenon.

Czech Republic

National Technical Museum
Prague
+420-2-2039-9111
www.ntm.cz/en

The National Technical Museum, founded in 1908, ranks among the oldest and largest technical museums in the world. The permanent exhibits include collections from the fields of transportation, mining, metallurgy, astronomy, horology, photography, and civil engineering. The museum's collections include a 250,000-volume library.

Denmark

Experimentarium
Hellerup
+45-39-27-33-33
www.experimentarium.dk/index.php?id=1001

Experimentarium is a science center of over 300 exhibits that concentrate on nature and technology, the environment, and health.

France

National Museum of Technology
Plaine St. Denis (Paris)
+33-1-53-018200
www.cnam.fr/museum/index__a.html

Started in 1794 as a place where inventors could display their perfected tools and machines, the museum's "new" objects eventually became historical items. Exhibits range from photographic equipment to golf-ball printers, barometers, thermometers, clocks, and an astrolabe once owned by Lavoisier.

Germany

Deutsches Museum
Munich
+49-89-2179-1,
www.deutsches-museum.de/index.php?id=1&L=1

This premiere science and technology museum includes of transportation, mining, and electronics. A long underground coal-mine exhibit clearly shows technologies used years ago. Plan on spending a full day in this stimulating museum.

SiemensForum
Munich
+89-2-342660
w1.siemens.com/siemensforum/en/index.htm

No matter what your interests in electronics, the SiemensForum museum has something for you. It provides information about the historical development of electrical engineering. Exhibits also explain the fast-paced trends in our information society. Hands-on displays, such as a dynamo machine and a neural computer let visitors to interact with the world of technology. 

Israel

Bloomfield Science Museum
Jerusalem
972-2-5618128
www.mada.org.il/eng/2.htm

The museum's exhibits cover electricity, sensors and senses, light, simple machines, and air. Visitors can interact with the exhibits to learn more about scientific principles.  The museum also offers programs aimed at children between 4 and 11. And the museum runs a "Young Scientist" program that rotates programs and offers individualized programs to young people interested in science.

Italy

Institute and Museum of the History of Science
Florence
+39-055-288-257
www.imss.fi.it/

The Institute and Museum was founded in 1927 on the initiative of the University of Florence. The collection of the Museum includes around 5000 original items, divided into two fundamental categories: the apparatus and scientific instruments of the Medici-Lorraine instrument collection, and teaching and experimental devices.

Physics Museum
Bologna
+39-051-351101
No Web site.

Exhibits at the museum display collections of physics instruments, and teaching and laboratory material, from the 17th century onwards.

Netherlands

Teylers Museum
Haarlem
+31-23-5319010
www.teylersmuseum.nl/index_flash.html

The museum's Instrument Gallery displays part of the collection of scientific instruments assembled between 1784 and 1909. The most striking of all the instruments in this gallery is Marinus van Marum's huge electrostatic generator dating from 1784; it could produce "tongues of fire" 60 cm long. This static electricity was stored in a battery of Leyden jars. A few of the other instruments in this Gallery can be demonstrated during a guided tour.

United Kingdom

The Science Museum
South Kensington, London
+44-20-7942-4455
www.nmsi.ac.uk/index.asp?flash=yes

The museum has permanent and temporary exhibits covering computing, heat and temperature, meteorology, science in the 18th century, telecommunications, time measurement, weighing and measuring, and other topics. The National Museum of Science & Industry acquires objects that represent the development of western science, technology, and medicine from around 1700 to the present.

National Maritime Museum
Greenwich, London
+44-20-8858-4422
www.nmm.ac.uk/visitors/index.html

Royal Observatory Greenwich

Greenwich, London
+44-20-8858-4422
www.rog.nmm.ac.uk

The Maritime Museum has something for everyone, or at least those interested in seamanship, watercraft, sailing, and the maritime history of the UK. Collections include models, paintings, and artifacts relating to maritime history. The Royal Observatory includes exhibits on astronomy and timekeeping. The Observatory sits on the prime meridian—0° longitude and it houses several of John Harrison's original clocks. Harrison designed and built clocks with such accuracy that they enabled mariners to accurately determine their longitude, a key requirement for accurate navigation.

The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers
49 Queen Victoria Street
London
+44-171-236-0070.
www.clockmakers.org

The Company provides a forum, where those interested in horology–modern or antiquarian–can meet. It encourages the trade of clockmaking, promotes excellence and promotes horological education and training. Through its Museum and Educational Trust it maintains its historic library and collection at Guildhall, London, for the enjoyment and education of the public. The Company runs occasional craft competitions and awards its Tompion Gold Medal for exceptional achievement in horology world-wide.

British Horological Institute
Upton, Newark
+44-1636-813795
www.bhi.co.uk

The institute provides exhibitions of many types of timekeeping instruments. The displays include watches from the 1700s to the present, master clocks and slave clocks, and a watch workshop and clock workshop in which the institute offers practical seminars. The institute maintains a world renowned collection of horological books.

Yugoslavia

Nikola Tesla Museum
Belgrade
+381-11-433-886
www.yurope.com/org/tesla/muzeje.htm

The Nikola Tesla Museum houses personal belongings of Nikola Tesla, which were collected and transferred to Belgrade after his death in New York in 1943. The wealth of archive material, consists of more than 150,000 document and exhibits that demonstrate the significance of Tesla's inventions.

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