K. Lindsay Hunter answered on 21 May 2015:
What a fantastic question! I’ve been to the most incredible natural history museums all around the world (American Museum of Natural History, National Museum of Natural History, Field Museum, Musee de l’Homme, Natural History Museum of London, the Rheinisches Landesmuseum, and the Hrvatski Prirodoslovni Muzej) and been able to see the behind-the-scenes stuff that’s not visible to the public.
My favorite science museum in the US is the Mutter Museum at the Philadelphia College of Surgeons. It’s full of the most amazing medical mysteries and scary old medical devices. It’s not a museum for you if you’re easily grossed out, but it really makes you marvel at how far medicine has come!
My favorite science museum in the world is the Krapina Neanderthal Museum outside Zagreb, Croatia. I was there while it was still being built–I was studying Krapina Neanderthal ribs at the Hrvatski Prirodoslovni Muzej (Croatian Natural History Museum)–so, I got to see how all of the exhibits were being constructed and got to talk with the people making them. I also got to learn about the thinking that what went into all of the exhibits and how they were designed to take the museum-goer on a journey back in time. It’s extremely high-tech and makes really good use of the technology to transport you to the time when Neanderthals walked that very spot! You see, one of the coolest things about the museum is that it’s set in the forest up on a cliff right near the Krapina Neanderthal sites! It was easy for me to stand up on that cliff and to gaze out at the valley below, which remains much like it would have many thousands of years ago, and feel as though there could be a ghostly Neanderthal beside me that saw th exact same thing!
But I don’t just love natural history, I love ALL museums, and one of those is actually my top-TOP favorite.
In the US, my favorite non-science museum is The Cloisters, which is a part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC. Everything about the museum teaches you something–it’s up in the most tranquil place on the Hudson River and is made up of buildings from medieval times that have been pieced together and moved to this location. It’s home to The Unicorn Tapestries, which is one of the first artifacts that I remember loving. The gardens of The Cloisters are full of medicinal herbs and plants from the Middle Ages, too!
But my favorite museum in the whole wide world (science or non-science) is called Yad Layeled and it’s a Holocaust Museum for children in northern Israel. That might not seem like such a happy place, and it really isn’t, but it uses architecture to beautifully convey a really tough time to those that might have a hard time taking it in in its entirety. It’s built like a spiral that starts out wide and bright at the top, but as it takes you through the history, it gets more narrow and darker as you descend into the madness of Hitler’s Nazi empire. My favorite part, though, is that at the darkest part, you can go into a secret room that makes up the center of the museum, and it’s bright and airy, full of children’s toys and books. This room is dedicated to my hero and favorite person ever, a Polish doctor, education researcher, and author named Janusz Korczak. He ran a children’s orphanage in the Warsaw Ghetto and wouldn’t leave the children even to save his life. He worked hard to keep the worst of Nazi horribleness from the kids in order to provide them with the best lives possible during one of the worst times of recent history. The kids were even allowed to run the orphanage as a kind of children’s kingdom and had their own court where they could even punish adults! Janusz Korczak and all of the children died together in Treblinka death camp just before the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
I hope you’ll “visit” my favorites at the links below and enjoy them just as much as I have!
The Mutter Museum video tour:
Krapina Neanderthal Museum:
The Unicorn Tapestries:
“King Matt the First” by Janusz Korczak:
“Kaytek the Wizard” by Janusz Korczak:
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