Old Prison is Transformed

Houston’s Museum of Natural Science has opened its extension in Sugarland. An old prison is now home to dinosaurs on display and traveling exhibits that might have been too big for the location in Houston. Pat Hernandez has more.

Workers put the finishing touches inside the Houston Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land. It used to be the old Central State Prison Farm that was built 70-years ago. Years later it was used for storage and a setting for a movie.
David Temple is the museum’s associate curator of paleontology. He can imagine what it sounded like as a prison.

“It would have been an unpleasant place. You would have had all the sounds associated with prison…fights, cussing, yelling, screaming, all those sorts of things. And now, we’re still gonna have squealing and yelling, but its gonna be happy kids. The contrast between those two purposes for this structure and just how this structure ended up as being a place of learning, a place for families, a place to have fun.”

To the left past  the main entrance is a life-size skeleton of  a large Tyrannosaurus Rex. Temple says unlike the main museum, patrons are face to face with this display.

“[In] our museum, we have a T-Rex there. It’s not STAN. It’s actually one that was done before STAN, but he’s up on a big pedestal and he’s interacting with other dinosaurs, but you really can’t get a feel for a T-Rex. If you wanna get a feel for a T-Rex, what you really want to get a feel for is that head. The mouth, the teeth, the business end of the animal. There, the head is really elevated, so its hard to see. Here, its ground level, you can walk within a  couple of feet of the head, and you can really get a feel for what it would have been like to look this thing in the eye 65-million years ago.”

Museum Senior designer Rodney Gentry says the 43-thousand square foot building doubles their exhibit space.

“We’ve got ceilings up to 18-feet on the second level, which are about 5-feet higher than what we have at the main museum. So, that does give me a bit more options to hang things, to display larger objects. It was an empty building  when we came into it, so we got to do what we wanted, anything we wanted.”

Four permanent galleries reflect the most popular exhibit areas of the main campus of the Houston Museum of Natural Science. It is one of the nation’s most heavily attended museums.

PH, KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

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