Rocks and Stars at the Houston Museum of Natural Science

It was a trifle humbling to walk into the Houston Museum of Natural Science with Harley Cozewith, Director of Operations at the Dallas Museum of Nature and Science.

You’d think I’d arrived with Cher as my date. We’d just had drinks at Hotel Zaza before strolling over… “Harley!!” …didn’t make the front door quite… A 10 minute conversation on the steps, then inside and “Harley!!”

Well, at least we were in the air conditioning! We almost made the drink table, then “Harley!!”

My sweet friend Harley was VP of Ops at HMNS for many years before heading up to the excitement in Dallas 5 years ago. It was her responsibility to maintain sanity through HMNS’ remarkable changes in the ’90s and much of the 2000s (I guess I could call those years the “oughts?”) I was at the Museum during part of her tenure, in the Education and Astronomy/Physics departments for about 5 years before venturing off into my own adventures. So, I certainly experienced my own “homecoming” — old friends appeared everywhere and it felt good to be in familiar surroundings.

But not too familiar! WOW! The party swirled around big walls blocking off what used to be the paleontology hall, now a shadow of it’s former self. For those willing to seek it out, a detailed plan of the coming expansion was available on the second level. It’s going to be really something, folks… Definitely stay tuned.

I found Museum president Joel Bartsch and Lisa Rebori, VP of Collections, surveying the crowd from the upstairs balcony after leaving Harley to another crowd of admirers. They both looked satisfied with what they saw and were enjoying that moment of satisfied exhaustion when planning has finally born fruit. Their guests below and around them were obviously having a good time.

“What’s the one exhibit we have to see?” This was the most popular question. The Gem and Mineral Hall. Absolute MUST. The most spectacular collection, *period*. Yes, the hall is short on context – I remember that being a grousing point when it was installed, but Good Heavens, it is breathtaking. You just can’t beat it for capturing the sheer romance and passion of each and every piece in the collection. It’s a feast for the senses.

I also got to visit with my old boss Carolyn Sumners, Star Diva and director of Astronomy and the Burke Baker Planetarium. She ushered me into the Done to catch her latest creation, “2012: Mayan Prophecies” which looked at the origin of the latest apocalyptic predictions based on the end of the Mayan calendar. Is the world going to end in 2012? According to Carolyn’s careful research (vetted by Museum anthropologist Dirk Van Tuerenhout) NO. Good! That was a relief! I allowed myself another glass of wine in celebration.

Carolyn has not changed a whit – endlessly cheerful, funny as hell and totally willing to tell funny stories on herself, which this time included her and I installing the planetarium seating together during the big Dome remodel in 1998. (and NO, I’m not liable if you fell out of your seat last night!)

I take particular pride in the Museum … Before launching my museum career, I put myself through my anthropology degree as a broadcaster and have been a voice over artist for about 25 years (Obviously, I started VERY young;) My voice appears in many of the halls including the video wall of the Welch Chemistry Hall and many of the kiosks in the anthropology hall and Texas Wildlife.

It was a great party, it was great to be home!

–Cecelia Ottenweller, AAM 2011 Public Relations & Marketing Subcommittee member

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