California Academy of Sciences: closing the old building, December 2003

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California Academy of Sciences: closing the old building, December 2003

Monday 29 December 2003.

The California Academy of Sciences is replacing their building in Golden Gate Park with a new "green" building (planned to be opened in 2008-9). The existing structure will be closed to the public in two days; the last three days are open longer hours, free to the public.

As we spent a lot of time here with young Isaac and Lila, we thought it would be fitting to give the old place a good send-off. We took "Dziadziu" and Sofia along with us this evening.

We park in the back, and so the first exhibit we see is Skulls. It's quite amazing to see the breadth and depth of a museum collection. This collection spans an entire wall, this picture showing perhaps an eight of the assembled skulls. Most amazing is the how each skull differs from the one before it, and how the whole warps from one style to another, a little bit at a time.

Far me it from me to monkey around in the museum, but I couldn't resist taking a picture of this exhibit. Here one can superimpose ones face on a variety of skulls. This is me with a gorilla skull, but it looks somewhat Orcish, no?

Here's the old projector in the Morrison Planetarium. It will be retired in favor of a digital version; it's available for others to use as an exhibit piece or as a fully-functioning device, should you want to build a 65-foot dome around it.

Here's a close-up of the sillhoutte cut into the side of the planetarium walls. All of San Francisco, as seen from the museum, appear here. This is looking east; Coit Tower appears at left, downtown and the Bay Bridge at right.

The new building will have a much smaller ecological footprint. Huge shade canopies keep the interior from needing to be cooled. The roof will be covered by a layer of living greenery, further cooling the building. There are to be two round deformations to the roof, one covering an aquarium, the other a terrarium.

Here's a view down one of the natural history wings, with the beautiful roof and animal displays. The kids love these. I've heard it said that these static displays are too dated, and will not make it into neither the interim or new buildings. That would be sad. At the end of the hall is an open display of the African weldt, complete with bird and thunder sounds.

Here's a close-up of a moment in Africa. I would like to visit it in person, someday.

The visit has been great, mostly due to the complete lack of crowds. There seem to be more staff than visitors present. (In contrast to our daytime visit on the next day, 30 December, which was a zoo.)

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