25 Things You Didn't Know About OMSI: Part II

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 many 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. You can read the first post in this blog series here

Shab Levy OMSI Gravitram 

The Gravitram was created by local inventor Shab Levy, who was inspired by tinkering with metal balls and switches. After 500+ hours of work, the sculpture was unveiled at OMSI on September 20, 1973. Levy went on to create other gravitrams for the Omniplex Science Center in Oklahoma, the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, the Jeddah Science Center in Saudi Arabia, and Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. He also made a unique hydro-gravitram for the Portland Children’s Museum. It’s amazing that his exhibit has stood the test of time and remains a favorite of our visitors.

Source: www.gravitram.com

Did you know OMSI offers a Space Flight class for students in grades 6-8? They build rockets and learn about the massive machines that lift space shuttles into orbit. Participants take a trip to the Museum of Flight in Seattle where they can launch a simulated space mission at the museum’s Challenger Learning Center. 

Oliver Spalt Rinjani 1994

When OMSI opened on Water Ave the newly designed OMNIMAX Theater was the first of its kind in Oregon. The OMNIMAX used the largest film frame in cinematic history – ten times the size of conventional 35mm film! The first movie ever shown in the OMNIMAX, Ring of Fire, looked at famous Pacific Rim volcanoes like Mount Saint Helens, Sakurajima in Japan, Mount Merapi in Indonesia, and Kilauea in Hawai’i. I remember seeing this film as a child in the OMNIMAX Theater. Do you?

Source: Ring of Fire on IMDB 

Lightbulb Collection 

You may notice displays rotating in and out of the glass cases in the Planetarium Hallway. Although OMSI is primarily a hands-on science museum, we have many wonderful collections in the building that can’t be out on the floor due to space restrictions. In fact, some of these only make it out on display once every 4-5 years. One to keep an eye out for is our light-bulb collection. You'll see everything from early Edison prototypes (some of which you can see year-round in the Physics Lab) to ornamental Japanese lanterns from the 1940s.

After the Apollo 11 and 17 missions returned to Earth, President Richard Nixon had fragments of the rock samples collected on the moon distributed to several countries as well as each of the 50 United States. Oregon is home to two moon rock samples – one lives in the Governor’s office in Salem. The other is in our very own Earth Science Hall here at OMSI. You can find it near other rock and mineral displays near the Earth Science Lab and Life Hall.

Source: Collect SPACE 




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3 Comments

What happened to the old rock and mineral room at the old OMSI (now the Children's Museum)? I remember going down there - there was no signs telling anyone it was down there, so it was a secret room more or less.

your article very interesting and usefull for me

Yes, it's amazing that the Gravitram has "stood the test of time," considering that it hasn't worked properly for years. It needs Mr. Levy or someone else with a good hand with gadgetry to tune it. Last time I visited OMSI the balls weren't evenly distributed through the machine, making watching it a pretty boring affair; they were getting caught in some of the slower parts such as the funnel at the bottom.

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