Welcome to ISMO’s Corner, a place where staff in all areas of the museum will share everything from new science discoveries to volunteer profiles. ISMO is OMSI’s first and only mascot, and while he’s been out of the public eye for many years, we decided it was time for a comeback. Though he has a distinctly 1950s feel, he represents the spirit of community and discovery that has always made us who we are.
For those who don’t know about our own little green spaceman, here’s an ISMO history from OMSI curator Lori Erickson …
ISMO was created in 1957 to help raise support for the museum’s new Washington Park building project. A little green space man with a “telerossiter” antenna on his head, ISMO rallied support for the new museum building among local children by providing magic keys that entitled them to attend special events and receive autographed pictures and secret messages from him. The key also allowed area children to speak with ISMO in person; by sliding the key into a slot outside of the downtown Meier and Frank store window, children could make a model of the outer space man talk.
ISMO became so popular with Portland kids that when he asked them to call a special telephone number to receive a secret message, the number of calls overloaded the telephone exchange, preventing even emergency calls from getting through. Announcements had to be made on the radio and in newspapers to stop calling! ISMO also encouraged children to buy a star in the Milky Way for one dollar each to help the museum build its new home. Children received a “deed” to the star that entitled them to land on their star in a rocket ship.
Originally called “OMSI the Outer Space Man,” this loveable space alien was designed by former Walt Disney artist Mo Martindale; the concept came from Robert Welch, chairman of the Project Science committee. This committee later organized the construction (“barn raising”) of the Washington Park OMSI walls in a single day by volunteers using donated materials. The new little mascot played a very important part in the effort to raise money and drum up volunteer support for the new museum building.
The little space alien’s name was later changed from OMSI to ISMO to avoid confusion when the museum itself began to be called OMSI. ISMO appeared on merchandise and printed materials until the 1980s. Many former OMSI kids still have fond memories of the little green space man and his signature phrase, “Sizzlin’ satellites, science is fun!”