When the city began work on the Woodall Rodgers Deck Park, they didn't just break ground -- there's no ground there to dig up -- they held a "ground-making" ceremony instead. When they invited guests for a first look at Main Street Garden, they didn't cut a ribbon; they simulated a laser slicing through a fiber-optic cable, then shot fireworks.
So how to mark the start of construction on the Perot Museum of Nature and Science? Well, sure, why not this? There were VIPs with shovels, a giant dinosaur skull, a cheering audience in blinking blue LED glasses and a 10-foot leaf-man on stilts, painted green, moving like an elephant and lolling his head around with an amused smile (looking just a little stoned) pointed at the 500-strong crowd.
Incorporating some geology, paleontology and whatever you call the study of human-plant gene-splicing nightmares, the Rube Goldberg-style contraption nodded to the diversity of exhibits you'll find in the museum when it opens in a 170-foot building at the south end of Victory Park.
Along with hearty congratulations from politicians, and reminders from fundraisers that the project's still a $58-million donation short of its $185 million target, the ceremony was heavy on hands-on science fun for the kids. A bag of goodies with pinwheels, bubbles and the blinking LED glasses tucked under each of the 500 chairs helped educate and entertain the kids, before scaring the hell out of them with a giant leaf-man.
The Dallas City Council enjoyed prime seats inside the big white tent, joined by the Victory Park museum's landlord-namesakes, the Perots, and its architect, Pritzker Prize-winner Thom Mayne. (We'll have more shots of the museum plans, plus photos from the ceremony, in a slide show coming soon.)
Texas Rep. Dan Branch was among the first of the pols to offer their congratulations, from the stage, in front of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skull and surrounded by fake rocks. "It kind of feels like Jurassic Park comes to Victory Park,'" Branch said.
With Mayor Leppert in China (he popped up on TVs to offer a taped congratulations), Mayor Pro Tem Dwain Caraway offered a novel approach in his turn dedicating a new facility downtown: "We continue to put points on the board. This is the best city in the United States of America."
"The science museums are people museums," Caraway added. "They are the most visited establishments across America. People from across Texas and the world will be coming here to this museum, and that's the reality that Dallas is a great city."
Nicole Small, the museum's president and CEO, offered a quick preview of the exhibits that'll find their home in the new museum being built out of the merger between the Dallas Museum of Natural History, the Science Place and the Dallas Children's Museum. New exhibits, along with an IMAX theater and planetarium, will cover gems and minerals, medical science, robot-building, aerospace engineering, ecology, and something that'll let you (or maybe just your kids) climb across the Dallas skyline.
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"It's about learning through having fun," Small said. "It's about going places you've never been and traveling back in time to visit places you'll probably never get to go."