A week ago, on my way to Paris, I was meant to have a brief transfer at the Dallas airport to my ongoing flight. As fate would have it, the connecting flight was cancelled so I found myself in Dallas for an unexpected 24 hour visit. I wound up staying at an historic hotel in the old downtown and the next day had enough time to visit one museum.
I decided to check out the Perot Museum of Nature and Science which just opened last month. In the 80’s Ross Perot was a huge proponent of math and science education. Recently his five offspring donated 10 million dollars apiece as the title gift for this museum designed by architect Thom Mayne. The modern building is rather seductive and it was fascinating to see yet another city’s take on these subjects.
I will never forget as a child being taken to the old Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. Pondering millions of years of history on earth: dinosaurs, cavemen, the animals on the steppes of Africa, the creatures deep beneath the oceans at the Steinhart Aquarium. Then there was the Morrison Planetarium-trying to wrap my young brain around the cosmos and beyond to infinity…Years later, when I was living in London, I attended a fancy-dress charity event in the neo-gothic main hall of the Natural History Museum, beneath the dramatically soaring skeleton of a dinosaur.During the years I was living in New York I never went to the Museum of Natural History on the west side of Central Park, but not too long ago I finally paid a visit.
Earlier this month my youngest niece was visiting me in San Francisco. The woman seated next to her on the plane insisted that she had to see the Academy of Sciences, which was completely re-built in the last few years, yet I hadn’t been back since my childhood visits. I obliged and I was so impressed with the latest incarnation that I am now a card-carrying member and can’t wait to go back and explore more.
It is not just my pride as a San Franciscan which leads me to prefer my hometown version to Dallas’s recent entry to the scene.
Their new museum is reminiscent of pages of a textbook tacked inside a handsome box. The sections of mineral specimens, fossils and taxidermy are outstanding but it lacks the vividness presented by San Francisco’s rain forest display, aquarium and planetarium.
Now, after all the years I have spent in Paris, I am anxiously looking forward to experiencing the French version in the Jardin des Plantes.