This is a new series I’m excited to introduce to the OMSI blog! While there’s plenty to see and do at the museum, there’s a lot that people don’t know and never see. Whether it’s a program you didn’t know existed or a fun piece of OMSI history, there are plenty of stories to tell.
I’d like to thank our resident curator, Lori Erickson, for her help in digging through the OMSI archives and collections room to uncover these hidden gems.
Kids and adults alike love our model Gemini space capsule. The real Project Gemini launched into orbit around the earth in 1965 with two astronauts. If you’ve ever been inside the model you know there isn’t a whole lot of room to move around. Luckily the crew never spent more than two weeks in space. Phew! When the project completed in 1966, space fever was at a high in the United States. Revell Inc., a model toy company ran a unique contest the next year. Local Portlander Robbie Alen Hanshew, then 13 years old, won the grand prize: a full-size replica of the famous Gemini spacecraft. Robbie donated the 19-foot 3,500 lb model to the museum because OMSI was his “favorite charity.” It’s been on display here ever since! Thanks to Robbie for this generous donation that keeps on giving.
Sources: Boeing History, Scott P. Cook
OMSI Camps and Classes are popular and fairly well known but fewer people know about our Camp-In program. The gist? Your friends, school-group or club (with an adult chaperone) get to spend the night at the museum! Although I can’t promise it’s anything like the Ben Stiller movie of the same name. Camp-Ins include dinner, snack and breakfast the next morning. Plus you’ll get to see an OMNIMAX movie or planetarium show. For a slightly higher fee you can choose to become a sailor for the evening and book a Sub-In. Same idea, but you’ll be sleeping on the USS Blueback. Learn more about these programs here.
There are plenty of neat fossils and rocks up in OMSI’s Earth Hall. One that should stand out is the Miomastodon skull. These elephant-relatives lived in Oregon during the Miocene Epoch (25-5 million years ago) hence the name “miomastodon”. Alonzo “Lon” Hancock found the specimen while hunting for fossils outside Ironside in Malheur County, Oregon. Originally Hancock and his friend Chester Arnold had only discovered the upper jaw, but when they returned twelve years later they were able to locate the lower half. Talk about dedication! You may recognize Lon’s name from OMSI’s Camp Hancock. Lon founded the camp in the John Day Fossil Beds in 1951.
Source: Oregon History Project
Next time you’re in the Turbine Hall, take a look up at the second floor. Besides the rotating National Geographic photo gallery you’ll see an impressive antique clock. In 1948 The Oregonian newspaper moved into their new building at 1320 SW Broadway, and the old building on SW Sixth and Alder was boarded up. At the time The Cleveland Wrecking Company was planning to sell the old clock for scrap metal. Dr. Sam Graf of Oregon State College swept in and bought the antique for $300. Graf eventually donated the Oregonian Clock to OMSI where it has resided ever since. Members with the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors (NAWCC 31) have helped to take care of the clock while at OMSI. They will periodically visit the museum to replace defunct parts and lubricate the gears.
Source: NAWCC Chapter 31
So the USS Blueback Submarine isn’t so much of a secret at OMSI, but it’s history remains a mystery for some. The Blueback spent over 30 years in the Navy’s service, making rounds to Japan, Hawaii, Australia, and Vietnam among others. The Blueback set a record in 1961 when she traveled 5,340 miles underwater from Yokosuka, Japan to San Diego, California. A barbell-class submarine built in the late 1950s the USS Blueback was the last non-nuclear sub built by the US Navy. When she was decommissioned in 1990, the Navy was left with a nuclear-only fleet.
Source: Historic Naval Ships Association