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

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!

OMSI harmonograph

The harmonograph was designed and built at OMSI by Glen Mills, an exhibit designer and builder who started at the museum in the 1960s. It is not only one of OMSI’s oldest exhibits still in use, but a constant favorite! By rotating one pendulum clockwise and the other counter clockwise, the pen attached on one end will begin to create a geometric image. Subtly varying the frequency of movement from the pendulums can create more complex images, but pushing too roughly can cause the image to lose its pattern and look jumbled. You can find the harmonograph in OMSI’s Physics Lab.

Science Playground is more than just an exciting place for younger children to explore; it’s a hub of scientific discovery in the area of Early Childhood Education. For the past couple of years OMSI has partnered with Lewis & Clark College on something we call the Living Laboratory. Cognitive researchers conduct studies in OMSI’s Discovery Lab on a weekly basis, hoping to answer questions about self-perception in toddlers, decision-making ability, toy preference, and much more. Call Science Playground at 503-239-7841 to learn more.

Walk Through Heart 

The Walk-Through Heart was one of OMSI’s most popular exhibits. At 14 feet high, and made with over 2 tons of steel, plaster and wire, it attracted a lot of interest from adults and kids alike.  If it were real it would hold up to 15,000 gallons of blood. After several years indoors at OMSI’s Washington Park location, the heart became an outdoor display and climbing attraction. It was retired after years of wear and tear.

What is PEPCO? It has nothing to do with Pepsi and everything to do with OMSI! We’ve been fabricating exhibits for use at OMSI and other science museums for decades. PEPCO is OMSI’s exhibit production shop at Water Ave. Located at the north end of the north parking lot, under the Marquam Bridge, this large white rectangular building is where the magic happens. Exhibits at OMSI that were built in PEPCO include A View from Space, Eat Well, Play Well, Clever Together, the Earthquake House, and past exhibits like Design Zone, Animation, Mindbender Mansion and Human Plus.

Triceratops Skull in Paleo Lab 

So, the Paleo Lab (short for paleontology) is not exactly a little known secret. But you’ll be surprised at what exactly you can find inside! Pictured above behind volunteer paleontologist Richard Burt is the skull of a triceratops that volunteers and science educators in the Earth Hall have been excavating for almost a decade. Staff must work carefully not to damage the bone or release too much dust into the air. Visitors can also find bones or fossils from a blue whale, dolphin, and other lesser known dinosaurs.

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