Posts Tagged ‘Museums’

Space Science Center Works to Display Shuttle Prototype and to Affiliate with Smithsonian

November 17, 2014



The relatively new whitewater experience in downtown Columbus has impressively increased the number of tourists visiting the Columbus area.  Hundreds of thousands were already coming because of the National Infantry Museum,  the National Civil War Naval Museum, and the Columbus State University Coca-Cola Space Science Center.  And now, the Coca-Cola Space Science Center could be on the verge of making Columbus an even greater national tourist destination.

CCSSC Executive Director Dr. Shawn Cruzen told members of the Rotary Club of Columbus that adding the 1/4 scale model space shuttle to the center’s museum and affiliating with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. will make the CCSSC an even greater tourist attraction, as well as enhance the educational aspects of the facility.

Dr. Cruzen told me that the space shuttle model played a large role in the development of the space shuttle. It was used as a testing prototype.  Developers of the shuttle had to know if the three elements involved in the launching of the shuttle, the main rocket, it’s attached fuel tank, and the shuttle, could withstand the violent vibrations that would  happen during a launch. They found out by submitting the prototype to those vibrations created by a machine. That makes the prototype, a $9.3 million gift of NASA’s to CCSSC, a highly valuable historical artifact.

However, it will take an estimated $2 million to modify the CCSSC building to display it.  As part of the efffort to raise the funds,  the center brought Dr. Valerie Neal, Director of the “Space History Division” of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, to Columbus to speak at fund-raising events. She was also scheduled to speak to the Rotary Club of Columbus, but commercial flight problems caused her to miss that; However, Dr. Cruzen and Mary Johnson,  Assistant Executive Director of CCSSC,  impressively substituted for her, in my view. Their presentations were well-received by the audience.

The CCSSC will do what it takes to make the affiliation application to the Smithsonian  next year, and has a goal of achieving affiliation in 2016.  There are all sorts of educational and promotional benefits in becoming an  Smithsonian affiliate, including use of artifacts and bringing Smithsonian experts to Columbus to speak.

I hope Columbus leaders will give full support to this initiative.  The Coca-Cola Space Science Center is a valuable asset for the area.  Shows in the world-class Omnisphere planetarium alone are worth a visit, thanks to the creativity and skills of its director, Lance Tankersley. 


Extraordinary Exhibits at Columbus Museum

March 4, 2014

(Still working on the biggie; meanwhile, a quickie on Columbus Museum.)

Columbus Museum, Columbus, Georgia
Columbus Museum, Columbus, Georgia


Checking out what’s new  at the Columbus Museum proved a good use of time Sunday.

Not only did I find the Midtown Columbus exhibit especially interesting because the first nine years of my life were spent in East Wynnton, but I was dazzled by the blown glass exhibit on the third floor.

The Midtown exhibit shows post cards of Victorian homes and places like Weracoba Park, popularly known as Lake Bottom, when there was actually a lake with a bath house, bridges, and row boats there. It was drained in 1925. There are also artifacts like furniture and china that date back to the Civil War.  Trust me, it’s worth a visit, especially if you grew up in Columbus.

Whatever you do, though, make sure you go up to the third floor.  You won’t believe what glass blowers can do.  Go when you have plenty of time.  It’s not something you want to do hurriedly.

$15 Million NASA Artifact to Arrive in Columbus Friday

July 17, 2012


A part of space exploration history is about to make Columbus, Georgia its home. The Space Shuttle’s main engine nozzle arrives here Friday in preparation of being placed on permanent display downtown at Columbus State University’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center.

To celebrate the arrival of the $15 million artifact, two free public ceremonies will take place as the nozzle travels by trailer Friday morning from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in HuntsvilleAla., to Columbus. You can check out the nozzle at the following locations:

            Phenix City Intermediate School, 2401 South Railroad Street, Phenix City, AL

            6:30 p.m. – Nozzle arrival, ceremony, and photo opportunities

            Coca-Cola Space Science Center, 701 Front Avenue, Columbus, GA 31901
            7:00 p.m. – Outdoor entertainment & refreshments
            7:45 p.m. – Nozzle arrival, ceremony, & photo opportunities

That the nozzle – designated as an artifact for CSU’s Coca-Cola Space Science Center – reaches Columbus on July 20 is not by accident. It was scheduled that day to coincide with the 43rd anniversary of man’s first walk on the moon. 

“Just as Apollo 11 marked the beginning of a new era of exploration, Friday’s NASA artifact transfer marks an important paradigm shift for the Space Science Center,” said Mary Johnson, assistant director of the center. “With the arrival of these historical additions to the center, the center’s tourism value, the impact within the Columbus community, throughout the region and state, will be significantly enhanced, as will the center’s ability to continue to provide innovative and unique opportunities for inquiry-based STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education.”

The artifact to be on display has flown to space nine times and on all four of the shuttles in service during its lifetime – Atlantis (3), Discovery (2), Endeavour (1) and Columbia (3). It was involved in 39 total engine starts – 24 for development and testing, three for engine certification, and 12 actual launch-pad firings, including a flight readiness firing before Endeavour’s maiden voyage and two launch-pad aborts.  The overall engine burn time on this nozzle is more than five hours and 16 minutes, a “truly phenomenal statistic considering it only takes the shuttle about 8 minutes to get to space,” said Shawn Cruzen, director of theCoca-Cola Space Science Center and a CSU professor of astronomy.

The nozzle is the largest of CSU’s Space Science Center’s nearly $20 million in artifacts.

CALLING on Montgomery

April 30, 2012

We had another nice CALL trip Saturday. ( CALL stands for Columbus Academy of Lifelong Learning.)   A bus load of us went from the parking lot at the Columbus State University Elizabeth Bradley-Turner Center for Continuing Education  to Montgomery, Alabama to soak up museum and theater culture.

First, we went to the Montgomery Museum of Art.  It is a beautiful facility with lots of interesting classical  and contemporary art, plus impressive displays of glass sculpture.  As I commented to some fellow travelers – I couldn’t have called them that in the 1950s because Sen. Joe McCarthy would have investigated us – the Montgomery and Columbus art museum buildings are more artistic and beautiful than the big High Museum in Atlanta.  I realize that such judgements are subjective –  but then isn’t all of art?

After that, we had lunch at Montgomery’s Olive Garden.   It took  so long for our big crowd to get served, I was afraid we would miss the play at the Shakespeare Festival, but, alas, we didn’t. The food was worth the wait. I had  Venetian Apricot Chicken.  It’s grilled chicken, asparagus, and brocoli, covered with an apricot sauce.  It’s was maybe a little too sweet for me, but as I got use to the abundance of sugar, it started tasting good. I don’t know why restaurants think they have to over-sugar and over-salt everything.  As everyone knows, it’s easy to add salt and sugar,  but impossible to take it out of food.

The weird play at the Shakespeare Festival was not by Shakespeare.  They mix them up.  They are doing some Shakespeare later in the season. The play we saw was a spoof of the famous Alfred Hitchcock 1935 movie cloak-and-dagger thriller The 39 Steps.  Four actors – really good ones – played all of the parts a la Springer Tuna style, but with four people  instead of just  two. Once one gets into the hang of the thing, it’s fun.  It is broad, slapstick farce, sort of like the early TV Show of Shows with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca  skits, only this skit was a full-length play, or maybe another way of putting it is that it was the Four Stooges with British accents. The actors got a lot of laughs and a thundering standing ovation when it was over.

All in all, it was another enjoyable CALL excursion.  If you are retired and want to enjoy lifelong learning with a bunch of freindly fun-loving folks,  when the CALL classes crank back up in the Fall, come join us.  There is a fee, but it’s reasonable.

Milton Jones Suggests Civil War Naval Museum Follow Library’s Example on Cutting Costs

May 30, 2011

Retired state representative, Columbus attorney, and friend of mine Milton Jones emailed an interesting take on my post about saving the National Civil War Naval Museum.  I’m passing it along to you.

Dick – I tell you often when I agree with you, but I agree with you much more often than I respond.  So, I guess I should tell you when I think you overreach on something.

Such an instance is found in your recent blog about the Civil War Naval Museum: “This discussion also brings up the question of whether tax dollars should be spent on museums.  But then, if you ask that, you would also have ask if tax dollars should fund public education.”
As to the Civil War Naval Museum, yes, it is an asset to our community and I would hate to see it close.  However, it has turned out to be way below the projections for visitors and obviously does not have the appeal necessary to generate funds for its present level of funding and operation.   Perhaps it could continue to function on fewer days per week, as we are seeing with the public libraries.  You can say the same about many other items in our community, some with large constituencies and others with small.
However, there is one thing which, in my humble opinion, is the absolute, Number One by light years responsibility of local government — the public education of our children.  Yes, a trip to the Civil War Naval Museum would be interesting, but to compare that to the tens of thousands of students and teachers engaged daily in public education in Muscogee County does not jive.
As to the economics, I do not profess to know much about that.  However, I do know that the $300,000 the city has been putting into the museum is more than 10% of the total estimated revenue spent by visitors.   The city is not getting that $2,800,000.  Sure, local merchants, hotels, gas stations, etc. do realize it, but I would doubt that the city’s take from sales taxes, hotel occupancy taxes, etc., etc. while significant, would even come close to recouping the $300,000.  The taxpayers are the ones paying most of the bill.  I may be wrong on this, but I stand ready to be corrected by someone who knows more about it if I am.
PS – And I am one of those many  Jaycees who, under the leadership of the late Jim Woodruff, your former boss,  dug the thing [the ironclad “Jackson” whose ruins are on display at the museum] out from under the river bank  behind those coffer dams in the early ’60’s, so I do value it.
Good points.  The museum could probably close a couple of days a week without damaging its viability.  However, with a staff of only 6 paid employees, I don’t think layoffs would be a good idea. Not that Milton suggested that, but drastically cutting funds poses that possibility.  I agree with him about our school system being at the top of the  priority list.  Nothing is more important than public education to the future of the citizens of any city.

The National Infantry Museum Experience

August 26, 2009

As you walk through the displays at the National Infantry Museum adjacent to Fort Benning,  it may seem incongruous, as you look at all of the representations of violence and mayhem, to reflect on love.  But, love is very much a soldier’s motivator.

Revolutionary War Exhibit, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

Revolutionary War Exhibit, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

A grandmother told me that she was not sure she should take her ten-year-old grandson to see the museum.  “It is about war and all of the horror that goes with it. I am not sure his parents would like it if I took him to see it.”

A lot of people have no problem at all taking their children to see it. I have seen a lot of them there.  For instance, as I was viewing a case with weapons in it, a  little boy walked up and asked me, “Do you work here?”

“No.  I’m just going through it like you are.”

“Were you in the Army?”  

“Yes I was.” 

 Then,  remembering what the grandmother told me, I asked him, “What do you think of all this?”

“Cool,” he replied.  “When I’m old enough, I am going to join.”

Hermann Goering's baton, a gift from Adolph Hitler. Goering was commander of the German air force during World War II, and was Hitler's designated successor.

Hermann Goering's baton, a gift from Adolph Hitler. Goering was commander of the German air force during World War II, and was Hitler's designated successor.

Obviously, he was not traumatized by anything he saw or heard. Age could be a factor, because quite a few of the combat veterans who go through the museum say they are very moved.  One of  the World War Two veterans told Columbus TV commentator Al Fleming, who works as a volunteer at the museum,  that he couldn’t go through the World War Two section of the musuem.  “It would just make me too nervous,” he said.   He probably had seen some close friends killed in battle.

Dad and son viewing 1930's machine gun carrier called a "Belly-flopper," National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

Dad and son viewing 1930's machine gun carrier called a "Belly-flopper," National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

Do I recommend a trip to the museum?  Should children see it?  Yes.  It is an impressive way to present the history of the infantry to adults and chidlren.  

If you haven’t been, let me recommend that you watch the short movie at the end.  It is very well done and captures the one thing that,  more than anything else, according to a lot of combat veterans,  motivates soldiers to perform truly courageous acts: the love they have for their fellow soldiers,  people  they have lived and trained with for a long time, their “family,”  “brothers” in battle.   Many Congressional Medals of Honor, the nation’s highest medal for valor,  were earned by soldiers who gave their lives to save their buddies.

Go to the National Infantry Museum at Least Once by Yourself

August 5, 2009


The National Infantry Museum is surpassing number of visitors expectations.   Since the museum opened in June,  80, 322 people have visited the facility, according to Sonya Bell, Administration Services Manager,  National Infantry Foundation.  I’ve been three times. Wonder if they counted me every time. 

Huey Helicopter,  Vietnam war exhibit, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

Huey Helicopter, Last Hundred Yards Vietnam War exhibit, National Infantry Museum, Columbus, GA

Even though I have been, as I said, three times, I plan to go a few more.  One day’s visit is just not enough to take it all it.  The first time you go through you get an overall impression,  but it really doesn’t sink in until you go through it again.  For one thing, the first time you don’t stop and read all of the information that is offered,  and, like a good movie – and the place is loaded with interesting combat newsreel footage –   you miss a lot detail.  One of the reasons you don’t stop and read everything is, when you are going through with other people. you tend to do it faster.  Nobody wants to hold the rest of the group back.  So, even though it’s enjoyable to do it with others,  I recommend that you also do it by yourself.

It really is a tremendous history lesson for everyone, but  you do have to take your time to let it soak him.   As I said,  I’ll be going back.

Infantry Museum Now Open

June 19, 2009
Parade Field, National Infantry Museum, Ft. Benning (The Parade Field is actually on the Ft. Benning Reservation, but the Museum building is in Columbus.)

Parade Field, National Infantry Museum, Ft. Benning (The Parade Field is actually on the Ft. Benning Reservation, but the Museum building is in Columbus.)

Thousands made the long walk from parking their cars on the roadsides to the   parade ground next to the National Infantry Museum to attend the grand opening graduation ceremony for soldiers who completed their basic training at Fort Benning, and the grand opening of the Museum afterwards.

Museum director MG (R) Jerry White left removes coat,  former Sec. of State Colin Powell greets fellow attendee,  Parade Field stands, National Infantry Museum

Museum director MG (R) Jerry White left removes coat, former Sec. of State Colin Powell greets fellow attendee, Parade Field stands, National Infantry Museum

Former Secretary of State and General Colin Powell drew a cheer from the crowd when he arrived.  He is on hand to cut the ribbon to open the museum.  He topped the long list of dignataries on hand.

Silver Wings Sky Diver,  National Infanrty Msueum Parade Field

Silver Wings Sky-diver, National Infanrty Msueum Parade Field

After the Army’s impressive show of an air assault demonstration,  and members of the elete “Silver Wings” parachuting in,  the Infantry Center Band led the graduating troops onto the field from World War Two Company Barracks area. Since I was in a couple of Army bands, I  always enjoy seeing them do their stuff well, and they did, which was good since this was probably the largest audience they’ll ever march and play for. 

Infantry Center Band leading basic training graduates on to Parade Field

Infantry Center Band leading basic training graduates onto Parade Field

Now,  we can actually see the museum’s main exhibits.  Maybe folks will now start patronizing the Imax Theater, the Fife and Drum restaurant, and the museum’s gift shop enough to help with the museum’s operating expenses.  The crowds for those attractions have been disappointing up until now,  but maybe that will change now.  I’ve been to the theater and restaurant and enjoyed both, and I plan to go again and again. See you at the museum.

Dr. John Lupold Lectures on Child Labor on the Same Day that Bibb Mill Burns

October 31, 2008

   In a remarkable coincidence, Dr. John Lupold delivered a lecture on child labor at the Columbus Museum on the day that saw the huge Bibb Mill destroyed by fire. The lecture had been scheduled long before the fire. 

Dr. John Lupold, retired history professor, author, historian

Dr. John Lupold, retired history professor, author, historian

  The museum is featuring the exhibit “Let Children be Children: Lewis Wickes Hine’s Crusade Against Child Labor” now through December 14th. It is an exhibit of photographs taken by Hine over a ten year period documenting the exploitation of child labor. Hine came to Columbus to show children working in the mills as part of his documentation of the subject.

  Dr. Lupold told us that child laborers in Columbus mills were mainly doffers, dinner toters and helpers. Lupold showed a lot of those pictures during his lecture, more than are on the display in the  exhibit.

  Naturally, since the Bibb Mill fire is in the news, the obvious question is did Bibb use child labor? All Columbus mills did in the early 1900’s, and that includes Bibb.  Bibb was built three times. The first mill was built in 1900 . After the 1920 version – number 3 – opened there was very little child labor. One lady said surely some 13 and 14 year old children worked there during those years. Lupold said, “That wasn’t child labor. Child labor was under 12 years old.”

  The crowd for the lecture and recpetion was the smallest I have seen for a recption celebrating the opening of an exhibition at the musem. I guess the subject of the exploitation of child labor doesn’t have a lot of appeal. And, truth is, it is not a pleasant subject.  When you see pictures of children as young as five years old working in a mill it is not a very uplifting experience. But, the pictures are extraordinary and certainly drive home the point Hine was making.

  Hine shot those pictures at the beginning of the 20th century. National laws against child labor were not enacted and signed into law until 1938 when Franklyn Delano Roosevelt was president.

  Dr. Lupold and I took a very interesting ride around the Bibb Mill area in 1985. He was showing me just how progressive Bibb Mill was in the 1920’s and what it did to announce that to the world. I’ll explain tomorrow.

When It’s Better to be Number 4 Than Number 1

July 8, 2008

    Did it surprise you when you learned that a national magazine named Columbus as the 4th best place to raise a family? It did me. I guess that doesn’t sound very loyal to the town of my birth and where I have spent – not all – but most of my life. Loyalty has nothing to do with it. I am a realist and, while I know Columbus’ plusses, I also know its minuses.


  It is a good place to raise a family. There are great parks, museums, a beautiful river walk, lakes, live theater, and a 2,000 seat state-of-the-art theater that attracts top international performers and a university that has a good reputation. Also, commutes and traffic congestion are nothing compared to places like Atlanta, LA and New York.


  But public education has to be at the top of the list for most parents when they are considering the desirability of a place to raise a family. While some schools have good standardized test score records, the overall average for the city is not good. So how did the judges for Best Life magazine get around that when it gave Columbus the number four ranking?  It’s because the system is hiring a larger percentage of new teachers than most school districts, 50 each year for the last 5 years, according to the report I saw about it on the Today show. Maybe that will help bring up the test scores. Let’s hope.



 Being named number 4 was something the Greater Columbus Chamber of Comemrce can work with. Just imagine what a chamber would do if a city made the top ten worst cities to raise kids. You don’t have to imagine. Just check the YouTube video below and see how Springfield, MO reacted to being named the number 1 worst palce to raise a family.