I do quite a bit of work with The Newark
Museum, serving on their Science Advisory Committee, and hosting
seminars for teachers to help them bring the latest technology and
science to life in their classrooms. It's a labor of love, for the
museum means much more to me that just a place to have fun with
science and technology. It's home.
Growing up in Newark, many is the Saturday or cloudy summer vacation
day I took the bus or subway downtown to spend the day in the museum.
Like most young boys, I headed for the 3rd floor where the science
stuff was kept and delighted in the exhibits and mechanical models
on display. If I was lucky, the resident geologist was there; and
if I could name correctly 3 rock fragments from the big glass rock
case, I could take them home. I had a lovely little private rock
collection at home to support my budding science interest.
As I got older, I began to have an interest in the other floors
of the building, visiting the art displays and taking in the artifacts
of other cultures. It was a place that taught me how things are
connected....... how history, science, art, and technology intermingle
and give us this big panorama we call civilization and culture.
Later, I learned how The Newark Museum was only one of a select
few museums in the U.S. that housed both art and science under one
roof, showing visitors the wonderful interlinking of these two aspects
of human creativity and expression. A turn-of-the-century visionary
named John Cotton Dana gave us this wonderful concept of a museum
that was not just a stuffy and perhaps austere place to see some
displays-as previous museums had been critically denounced- but
rather a dynamic place where education for the general public is
an essential part of museum life for visitors and their families.
With The Newark Museum, Mr. Dana ignited a worldwide revolution
in museum experiences that continues today. This jewel of a building
was the epicenter for a tremendous change in the museum world, and
today that leadership continues. John Cotton Dana also gave us the
spirit of The Newark Public Library, another of my favorite downtown
places. At the Rutgers Newark campus their library building has
been named in his honor, Dana Library.
I recall fondly the cool interior of the museum on a hot summer
day, and the big cavernous feeling I got upon entering the front
door. Often, I would purchase a science book in the little gift
shop, and read it on the way home. They are still in my home library,
but now the pages are a bit yellowed with the years, a little like
me....but the memories are yet green and fragrant....and renewed,
whenever I walk through those doors. I hope I can do this for many
years to come.
If you have not been to the museum in a while, get there and enjoy
the many wonderful things, and the new planetarium projection equipment.
Next Fall (2002), a complete renovation of the 3rd floor will bring
spectacular new natural science exhibits and educational opportunities.
John Cotton Dana would be proud, and I am too, for having such a
treasure so close to where I live and work.