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Electric Dream Expo at Tesla Science Center in Shoreham brings hundreds

It’s no shock that the legacy of Nikola Tesla, the man responsible for alternating current electricity, resonates so profoundly in Shoreham, given it’s where the Serbian-American inventor’s last remaining laboratory sits.

So in honor of his 161st birthday, more than 600 residents of all ages and from all over the map journeyed to the historic Shoreham site, the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, for a supercharged celebration of the prolific pioneer.

Under sunny skies Saturday, July 8, the center kicked off its Electric Dream Expo, an all-afternoon event for all things Tesla-inspired.

From interactive exhibits of 3-D printers, high school robotics and old ham radios to demonstrations of the Tesla coil and Tesla-oriented augmented reality, to science-based activities for kids, the event carried a theme of technological innovation of the past, present and future.

“We’re just so thrilled to see so many people are interested and incredibly humbled knowing what Tesla represents to people.”

— Jane Alcorn

Vibrant Tesla cars were also on display throughout the grounds with raffles for 24-hour test drives available to the public. A Tesla impersonator, in full Victorian-era garb, walked around the premises and was photographed with attendees.

The grand event was even broadcast live to more than 50,000 people on Facebook with the help of a hovering drone.

While the center has held birthday celebrations for Tesla in the past, this one was the biggest yet and was also in acknowledgement of the 100th anniversary of the dismantling of his legendary and ahead-of-its-time wireless transmitting tower, which sat on the Shoreham property before being torn down July 4, 1917.

“It seemed important that we do something with a little more bang,” Jane Alcorn, Tesla Science Center board president said of this year’s event, the funds from which would go toward the development of the long-awaited Tesla museum and science center in the laboratory. “It’s exhilarating and humbling. We’re just so thrilled to see so many people are interested, and incredibly humbled knowing what Tesla represents to people.”

Dozens of vendors, including Brookhaven National Lab, North Shore Public Library, Museum of Interesting Things, Custer Institute & Observatory and Long Island Radio & TV Historical Society, set up at tables as people wearing Tesla shirts and pins browsed and bonded over their shared interest in the man who paved the way for several modern gadgets like cellphones. TVs and radios.

“He’s the father of just about everything we use … the hero of modern science,” Manorville resident and longtime Tesla researcher Axel Wicks said.

“He’s the father of just about everything we use … the hero of modern science.”

— Axel Wicks

Rachel Zyats, of Rocky Point, said she was excited that Tesla was finally getting the credit he deserved, as somebody who was greatly overshadowed by rival Thomas Edison

“Tesla was the real inventor,” Zyats said. “I think it’s great that more people are starting to learn about [him].”

Lynbrook mother Leeanne Chiulli and her 11-year-old daughter Kate, wearing a T-shirt with the slogan, “Never underestimate a woman who loves Nikola Tesla,” said the creator is their idol. James Angell, a retired engineer from Commack, pointed to Tesla as a hero in the field of science.

“Tesla is one of the greatest geniuses in the last 100 years in engineering and electrical theory,” Angell said, noting his early development of quantum mechanics. “One hundred years before anyone started talking about it today, Tesla was talking about it. [He] had a concept years and years before anyone thought of it. [So] it’s very encouraging to see so many people who now have an interest in Tesla and his inventions.”

Standing at one of the booths was Joseph Sikorski, a Babylon-based filmmaker who made a documentary entitled “Tower to the People” about the history of Wardenclyffe and Tesla’s accomplishments there.

“Tesla is a great unifier and it’s awesome to see him opening a lot of doors for people of all types,” he said.

Several speakers took to the podium in front of the historic brick building where Tesla built his laboratory in 1901 with the help of renowned architect Stanford White.

“[He] had a concept years and years before anyone thought of it. [So] it’s very encouraging to see so many people who now have an interest in Tesla and his inventions.”

— James Angell

William Terbo, Tesla’s grandnephew, was also in attendance, recounting memories of his great-uncle.

With Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) alongside, Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) presented Alcorn and Marc Alessi, executive director, with a proclamation for their work in keeping Tesla’s legacy alive. “Long live Tesla, long live ideas, long live science,” Romaine said.

At the end of the ceremony, young Kyle Driebeek, of Connecticut, performed “America the Beautiful” and “Happy Birthday” on the theremin, a Russian electronic instrument played without physical contact. Tesla-decorated birthday cake was also served.

Rock Brynner, professor, author and son of famous actor Yul, read Tesla-related excerpts from his book about the New York Power Authority’s origins and expressed his joy in seeing so many people in attendance.

“I expected to see maybe three kids and a sullen nanny, and instead there’s this enormously enthusiastic crowd … it’s wonderful,” Brynner said. “In the 1930s, a journalist asked Albert Einstein what it was like to be the most brilliant genius in the world and Einstein replied, ‘I don’t know, you’ll have to ask Nikola Tesla.’ I urge all of you to learn more about Tesla. His story is enthralling and tragic, beautiful and terribly moving.”

The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe is located at 5 Randall Road in Shoreham. File photo by Wenhao Ma

Shoreham’s Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe is hosting the Electric Dream Expo Saturday, July 8 — a community event honoring science innovator Nikola Tesla’s 161st birthday, as well as the 100th anniversary of the dismantling of Tesla’s famous wireless transmitting tower. The Electric Dream Expo is comprised of an afternoon Science & Innovation Expo from 2 to 6 p.m. on the site of Tesla’s last existing laboratory in Shoreham, with exhibits, demonstrations, food and entertainment.

There will also be an evening of Tesla entertainment, called Summer Electrified!, from 8 to 10 p.m. at Shoreham-Wading River High School, 250A Route 25A, Shoreham, featuring Tesla-inspired performances.

Technological innovation of the past, present and future is the expo’s theme, and attendees at the daytime Science & Innovation Expo will experience Tesla-themed exhibits and activities for all ages, including a HAM radio presentation, displays by The Museum of Interesting Things and Long Island Radio & TV Historical Society, Tesla coil exhibit, 3-D printer and robotics demos, interactive exhibits of Tesla inventions and a Tesla car display.

Tours and a special presentation of innovation will feature the history of Tesla’s 187-foot wireless transmitter tower, built on the Shoreham site in 1907 and dismantled 100 years ago. The tower’s base remains as a focal point, along with Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Laboratory, built from 1901 to 1905 by renowned architect Stanford White, and now being renovated into an immersive science and education center.

The Summer Electrified! an evening of Tesla entertainment, features ArcAttack!, a musical light show using Tesla coil technology, as well as a unique lineup of performances and readings focused on Tesla’s life and legacies.

Admission to the Science & Innovation Expo is $15 for ages 13 and over, $5 for ages 5 to 12 and free for children under 5. Tickets for the Summer Electrified! performances are $25 per person 13 and over, $12 for ages 5 to 12 and free for children under 5. Admission to both events is $35 for 13 and over, $15 for ages 5 to 12 and free for children under 5. A special price of $25 per car covers admission to the daytime Science Innovation Expo for all passengers, and is limited to the first 50 car tickets purchased. Tickets can be purchased at www.teslasciencecenter.org.

Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe's Board of Directors President Jane Alcorn helps American Physical Society President Sam Aronson unveil the historic site plaque while American Physical Society chair member Paul Halpern looks on. Photo by Kevin Redding

The Tesla Science Center At Wardenclyffe, a lab of the former inventor Nikola Tesla, is the only one left of its kind, so it’s no surprise it’s historic.

To recognize this, a large crowd of local dignitaries and community members gathered in Shoreham Dec. 11 to witness the site be designated as a national historic physics site by the American Physical Society.

Back in 2013 a local not-for-profit known then as Friends of Science East Inc. raised over $1 million to purchase the property – Nikola Tesla’s last standing laboratory he conducted research in – when it was on the brink of being forgotten with the hopes of preserving its history. The site has since turned it into a hub for science education, “inspiring the Tesla’s of tomorrow.”

And while there’s still plenty of work to be done before the Science and Technology Center and Museum opens, the APS’s plaque presentation ceremony proved appreciation for Tesla is alive and well – due in large part to the determination of those in Shoreham to keep the legacy of the Serbian-born scientist and inventor of alternating current electricity and neon lighting energized.

“We wanted to have a place where children could build upon their science education, enhance what they learn in school, and have an opportunity to explore and develop a curiosity of how the world works.”

–Jane Alcorn

Members of the APS, the largest professional committee of physics in the U.S. that has deemed just 40 sites worthy of designation since 2004, presented the black stone plaque to Board of Directors President Jane Alcorn and Director Marc Alessi, because of the site’s commitment to raising awareness of Tesla and physics to Long Island and across the world.

Paul Halpern, a chair member with the society, said the site is of great value and interest in terms of history and science.

“There’s a lot of [renewed] interest in Tesla now, and we’re hoping this will help spur on the Tesla Science Center project to build a museum here,” Halpern said.

Speakers took to the podium in front of the historic brick building where Tesla built his laboratory in 1901 with the help of renowned architect Stanford White.

Unfortunately, his funders had given up on the project a few years later and a tower he was using to send wireless power across the world was demolished in 1917, leaving his grand vision to go unexplored.

But, as the plaque reads in gold lettering, “while long-distance wireless power transmission remains a dream, worldwide wireless communication was achieved within a century.”

Alcorn, who has been an especially instrumental force in saving the site, said she and the rest of the volunteers at the center are humbled to be listed among the other notable institutions and people who’ve received the prestigious recognition in the past.

“We work to educate the public about Tesla and his work,” Alcorn said. “We also work to educate the public about the importance of science education for children … so when we set out to create this place, we wanted to have a place where children could build upon their science education, enhance what they learn in school, and have an opportunity to explore and develop a curiosity of how the world works.”

Tescla Science Center at Wardenclyffe Director Marc Alessi speaks during the national historic site designation ceremony. Photo by Kevin Redding
Tescla Science Center at Wardenclyffe Director Marc Alessi speaks during the national historic site designation ceremony. Photo by Kevin Redding

In the future, the 16-acre campus plans to include a children’s playground, an entrepreneurial lab, an exhibit space and a gathering space for community events and programs.

Alessi said he and the center raised upwards of $1.37 million in 2012 in collaboration with internet cartoonist Matt Inman through an internet fundraising campaign that had the support of over 33,000 people in 108 countries. They obtained the property from the Agfa Corporation officially in May 2013.

“For quite some time, [Tesla] was almost forgotten,” Alessi said. “If it wasn’t for the work of many of the people here in this community and across the country we would have lost this location, historic lab and beautiful building behind us. With all of that hard work we’ve been able to secure the property and pay testament to the history of this property and Tesla’s legacy here by establishing the museum and science center.”

Alessi said the site belongs to the public and the center wants to open as soon as possible and will continue to fundraise. Just that day, he said he was informed somebody in attendance of the ceremony who wished to remain anonymous donated $5,000.

He said the center hopes to have two buildings up by early 2018 and intends to eventually have something to the scale of the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey or the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

Just before the official register was signed to seal the designation, Alessi called Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said the science center being developed is desperately needed in a nation that needs to focus more on science and fact.

“We are standing here – long after Tesla’s death in 1944, long after his emigration to this country in 1884 – to remind people that the power of ideas doesn’t die with the person who thought those ideas,” Romaine said. “We envision this to be one our best institutes.”

Board hires first executive director to help facility grow

The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe is located at 5 Randall Road in Shoreham. File photo by Wenhao Ma

By Desirée Keegan

Marc Alessi lives just houses down from where inventor Nikola Tesla stayed when he was in Shoreham.

When Alessi held public office as a New York State assemblyman, he worked to secure state funding to purchase the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, to ensure it would be preserved and remain in the right hands.

Years later, he’s getting even more involved.

“I would drive past the site and look at the statue and think, I could be doing more,” Alessi said.

Now, he’s the executive director for the center’s board and is responsible for planning, administration and management, while also helping the science center develop and grow during its critical period of renovation, historic restoration and construction on the grounds of the former laboratory of Nikola Tesla.

Marc Alessi will help the Tesla Science Center become an incubator for innovation. Photo from Marc Alessi
Marc Alessi will help the Tesla Science Center become an incubator for innovation. Photo from Marc Alessi

“Marc has a lot of energy, enthusiasm and he’s got a lot of spirit, and I think those are qualities that will help to bring attention and help us to move forward in our efforts to make the science center more well known,” board of directors President Jane Alcorn said. “He’s been part of our past and has always shown an interest, so he’s knowledgeable about what we’re doing.”

Alessi, an entrepreneur, brings a lot of knowledge in areas that no other board member has, Alcorn said.

The Shoreham resident is an attorney with Campolo, Middleton, and McCormick LLP, is a former executive director for the Long Island Angel Network, helped establish Accelerate Long Island and currently serves as chairman and founding CEO of one of their portfolio companies, SynchoPET. He also serves on the board of directors of the Peconic Bay Medical Center and the Advisory Council for East End Arts.

“I believe I work for Nikola Tesla as much as I work for the board,” he said. “It’s my mission in life, whether I work as their executive director or not, to make sure he has his place in history. People were just floored by just what he was trying to accomplish, but if you just look at what he did accomplish, like remote control and x-ray and neon, and the alternating current electricity, [you could see] all that he did for humanity.”

One thing he would like to emphasize, that many may not know about Tesla, was how he tore up his royalty contract in an effort to ensure all people, not just the wealthy, would have electricity.

“Invention, technology and innovation doesn’t always have to be about personal enrichment,” he said. “Sometimes it’s just about improving the world around us.”

First for the center is turning the laboratory into a museum and preserving the site as a national historic landmark, which would be a tremendous tourism draw. Aside from the museum, a cinder-block building will add community space where civics and other local groups and robotics clubs can meet and utilize the space, which will also house educational opportunities.

“I would drive past the site and look at the statue and think, I could be doing more.” — Marc Alessi

Alessi was recently named executive director of the Business Incubator Association of New York State Inc., a nonprofit trade association dedicated to the growth and development of startup and incubator-based enterprises throughout the state.

Which is exactly what the Tesla Science Center is working toward.

“I can’t walk around my community without feeling a bit of his presence and a bit of a responsibility to make sure this site is preserved in perpetuity, and educates people about him, what he’s about and what is possible,” he said. “The whole board and the community is interested in seeing the Tesla’s of tomorrow have a place to come and be able to create. To try to invent.”

Alcorn believes that with Alessi’s help all of their ideas can come to fruition.

“He has a wealth of knowledge and connections with many people and many areas of business and government and incubators that will be of great help in sharing our goals and encouraging others in making this happen,” she said. “He does definitely share many of our ideas, but he also has plenty of ideas of his own.”

Alessi said he specializes in taking an idea and making it a reality, but with this site it means more than that to him.

“By celebrating Tesla you’re celebrating innovation, that’s at my core and DNA,” he said. “We’d love to see a maker space or an incubator where other folks in the community, not just students, can come in and have access to the tools that are necessary to make high-tech inventions. That will be great for our community. It’s about the Tesla’s of tomorrow. We want to empower that.”

Audience members view a show in the planetarium. Photo by Jennifer Vacca

On June 29, the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum in Centerport will observe the 45th anniversary of the opening of its planetarium, now known as the Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium.

The anniversary coincides with the final stage of the planetarium’s technological update — the installation of a cutting-edge SkyLase laser light show system with entertainment programs, from Audio Visual Imagineering Inc. (AVI). The planetarium’s advanced GeminiStar III system — which includes a Konica Minolta Infinium-L star projector, full-dome video and surround-sound — offers audiences a spectacular, immersive experience.

Suffolk County built the $1 million planetarium in 1971 as a way to increase visitorship and to produce operating income to supplement the museum’s original $2 million trust fund. The planetarium enhanced the museum’s ability to carry out the science education aspect of its mission and honored William K. Vanderbilt II’s love of science and astronomy — and his use of celestial navigation when he traveled the world’s oceans in the early twentieth century.

In 1987, after welcoming more than 2.2 million visitors, the Vanderbilt refurbished the planetarium, acoustically redesigned its newly renamed Sky Theatre, and equipped it with the latest audio equipment. The planetarium classroom received a makeover, too, with the addition of a then-advanced VCR (video cassette recorder) and video laser-disk equipment

Above, the entrance to the Charles and Helen Reichart Planetarium. Photo by Jennifer Vacca
Above, the entrance to the Charles and Helen Reichart Planetarium. Photo by Jennifer Vacca

Then in 2013,  following an extensive $4 million makeover and technological update, the Vanderbilt Planetarium became one of the finest and most advanced in the United States and the largest astronomical facility on Long Island. Suffolk County provided $3.9 million of the financing for the planetarium renovation. Private donations totaling $160,000 financed building enhancements: new theater seating; an improved heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system; a lobby face-lift and a new gift shop. Following the reopening, the planetarium received the most generous gift in the museum’s history. Charles and Helen Reichert pledged $1.7 million over 20 years to support the planetarium, its programs and its future. In their honor, the facility was named The Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium.

Lance Reinheimer, executive director, said, “We are especially grateful to the Reichert family, Suffolk County and private donors for their extraordinary support of the Museum, its education programs, and its enduring value to Long Island.”

The Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium, located on the grounds of the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport, offers daytime shows on Tuesday at 2 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays at noon, 1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m. Evening shows are held on Fridays and Saturdays at 8, 9 and 10 p.m. Year-round viewing of the night sky (weather permitting), is held on Friday evenings from 9 to 10 p.m. (free with show ticket; $3 without show ticket). For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

Visitors at the Vanderbilt Museum navigate through one of the new custom-built kiosks. Photo courtesy of the Vanderbilt Museum

When visitors want to know about the intriguing wild-animal dioramas at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, they can now travel to the Arctic, the Kalahari, India and Central America with the tip of a finger.

Details, narration and images on the screens of the museum’s new, electronic Stoll Wing kiosks teach visitors about the animals, where they live and  what they eat — and show video images of them in their native habitats. The kiosks were custom built for the museum by Ninjaneer Studios of Winter Springs, Florida.

Just installed, the kiosks are part of the ongoing Stoll Wing restoration and modernization, made possible by recent gifts from Lynnda Speer through the Roy M. Speer Foundation that total $200,000. The gifts endow the future of the Stoll Wing animals and dioramas. Lynnda Speer is the granddaughter of museum trustee and benefactor Charles H. Stoll (1887-1988) of Long Island, a noted explorer, naturalist and big-game hunter.

Stoll financed the eight strikingly detailed dioramas that feature wild game he and his wife Merle brought back from around the world between 1922 and 1969.

“We wanted to attract a wider audience of visitors, including younger people who expect to interact with technology when they go to a museum,” said Chris Brown, a partner at Ninjaneer Studios.

“Here, it’s an interaction with history. We try to identify where technology can be used in an existing museum exhibit. Our goal is not to compromise, but to enhance what’s there and to make it engaging to all visitors,” he said.

Ninjaneer’s Heather Knott said they designed the kiosks specifically to fit the subject matter and the physical space: “This solution was customized for the Vanderbilt. We designed the technology to complement and to be unobtrusive.”

The kiosks have an intriguing feature. “Stoll’s family provided us with vintage on-location movie footage he and his wife shot on their safaris, when they collected these animals,” Brown said. “The film had been digitized and we were able to remaster some of it,” he said.

Knott said they create turn-key solutions. “Once the programs, video and narration were loaded into the kiosks and the system was tested, we turned it over to the Vanderbilt to operate,” she said. “Soon, visitors will be able to access the information on their mobile devices, and the museum will be able to manage the system online.”

The Stolls collected the exhibited animals in Africa, Alaska, the American West, the Arctic, British Honduras (now Belize), Canada, India and Nova Scotia. Specimens range from a blue wildebeest, polar bear, walrus and Cape buffalo, to a kudu, ostrich, jaguar, Bengal tiger and leopard.

Opened to the public in 1970, the Stoll Wing complements the natural history collections, Marine Museum and habitat animal dioramas built by William K. Vanderbilt II — all key elements of the museum’s education programs. Stoll was also a lawyer and Nassau County judge who financed and led the famous 1928 Stoll-McCracken Siberian Arctic Expedition, under the auspices of the American Museum of Natural History. He served as a Vanderbilt trustee and board president (1967-1975).

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road in Centerport. The musuem and mansion are open on Tuesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. through April 12. For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

A murder mystery thousands of years old and a continent away is coming to Long Island, where middle school and high school students can look at a rare face from human history.

During the ice age, an arrow went through a man’s shoulder blade, nicked an artery that leaves the aorta and caused him to bleed to death. Some time after he died, weather conditions effectively freeze dried him, preserving him in a remarkably pristine state until German hikers found his five-foot, five-inch body protruding from a melting glacier in 1991. He was found in the Ötztal Alps (on the border between Austria and Italy) — hence the name Ötzi.

David Micklos, executive director of the DNA Learning Center, stands next to the only authorized replica of Ötzi outside of the South Tyrol Museum in Italy. Photo by Daniel Dunaief
Dave Micklos, executive director of the DNA Learning Center, stands next to the only authorized replica of Ötzi outside of the South Tyrol Museum in Italy. Photo by Daniel Dunaief

While Ötzi, as he is now called, remains preserved carefully in a special facility in Italy, a master craftsman and artist has created a painstaking replica of a 45-year-old man killed at over 10,000 feet that is now on display at the DNA Learning Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.

“Kids are fascinated by it,” said Dave Micklos, the executive director of the DNA Learning Center, who has shared the newest mummified celebrity with students for several weeks in advance of the official exhibit opening in the middle of February. “The story is quite fascinating: it’s an ancient murder mystery. We take it from the forensic slant: what is the biological evidence we can see on Ötzi’s body that tells us who he was and how he died.”

Ötzi, or the Iceman as he is also known, has become the subject of extensive investigation by scientists around the world, who have explored everything from the over 60 tattoos on his body, to the copper axe found next to him, to the contents of his stomach and intestines, which have helped tell the story about the last day of Ötzi’s life.

“It’s a story that’s been assembled, bit by bit,” Micklos said. “Each scientific investigation adds new twists to the story.”

The Learning Center came up with the idea to create a replica and proposed it to the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology in Bolzano, Italy. Eventually, the museum granted the center the rights to use the CT scans, which provide detailed anatomical features. Ultimately, artist and paleo-sculptor Gary Staab used the images and studied the Iceman himself.

Staab, who has recreated copies of extinct animals for museums around the world, used a three-dimensional printer and sculpting and painting techniques to create an exact replica of a man who probably didn’t know he was in immediate danger when he was hit, because he seemed to be taking a break, Micklos said. Staab built one layer at a time of a resin-based prototype, then worked on the skin through sculpting, molding and painting.

A close-up of Ötzi the Iceman mummy’s replica at the DNA Learning Center. Photo by Daniel Dunaief
A close-up of Ötzi the Iceman mummy’s replica at the DNA Learning Center. Photo by Daniel Dunaief

Nova produced a television feature called “Nova’s Iceman Reborn” on PBS that captures the process of combining art and science to make a replica of the rare and highly valued fossil, which viewers can stream online through the link http://www.pbs.org/nova.

Long Islanders can see the replica at the Learning Center, where they can ask a host of questions about a man born during the copper age — hence the copper axe — and about 2,500 years before Rome was founded. Visitors interested in seeing Ötzi need to purchase tickets, which cost $10, ahead of time through the Learning Center’s website at www.dnalc.org.

Ötzi’s entire genetic sequence is available online. The Learning Center is the first science center worldwide to focus on DNA and genetics.

The center is especially interested in helping students understand what DNA says about human evolution. In one experiment, students can compare their own DNA to Ötzi, a Neanderthal and another ancient hominid group, called the Denisovans. Students can see how similar modern DNA is to Ötzi and how different it is from the Neanderthals and Denisovans. The 5,200 year differences with Ötzi is “no time in DNA time,” Micklos said.

Ötzi’s genes reveal that he had atherosclerosis and the deposition of plaques on the inner walls of the arteries. Ötzi was a healthy, active, relatively long-lived man in the Paleolithic era, who ate a diet of natural, unprocessed foods, and yet he had heart disease. His heart condition came as a surprise to scientists.

A 3-D resin model of Ötzi’s head before being painted. Photo by Daniel Dunaief
A 3-D resin model of Ötzi’s head before being painted. Photo by Daniel Dunaief

In addition to his genes, Ötzi’s body left clues about his life, where he’d spent his last day and what he’d eaten. Scientists have explored the contents of each part of his digestive tract, which, remarkably, remained well preserved during those thousands of years.

Ötzi had eaten different kinds of ibex meat, which is a goat found in the mountains. The pollen that was in his system, which came from the air he inhaled and from the food he ate, were pieces of a puzzle that showed where he’d been. The pollen near the top of his digestive track came from coniferous trees, including relatives of spruces and pines, which came from higher altitudes. Stored deeper in his system was pollen from deciduous trees, like birch and hazel, which grew lower in the valleys.

In addition to the Ötzi replica, the Learning Center also has reproductions of the clothes he was wearing and the artifacts he was carrying, which included a couple of containers of birch bark sewn together with fibers.

The Learning Center is developing a program to help students from the age of 10 to 18 explore Ötzi, so students can ask what the artifacts tell them about neolithic time.

Micklos said students have shown a strong interest in this old replica.

“It’s a little bit morbid, but not too much, and it’s a little gruesome, but not too much,” he said. “Everybody loves a mummy,” he continued, citing the popularity of the mummy exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Introduces new film club, among other events

Above, a few of the many exhibits on display at The Whaling Museum. File photo

By Rita J. Egan

Celebrating 80 years of the Whaling Museum Society, the staff at The Whaling Museum & Education Center of Cold Spring Harbor is busy organizing and preparing activities for its milestone anniversary, which will include a Film Club and Whaleboat Chats.

It was 1936 when the Whaling Museum Society was founded, according to the museum’s executive director Nomi Dayan. Town residents organized the society to recognize the rich whaling heritage in the area where John H. Jones and Walter R. Jones started the Cold Spring Harbor Whaling Company, which operated from 1836 until 1862.

“We thought this is a special year to recognize this important part of Long Island’s history,” Dayan said.

’There’s truly something for all ages here at the museum’ — Nomi Dayan, Executive Director of The Whaling Museum

It took the society until August of 1942 to open the official museum, which came together when members were able to secure a whaleboat from the brig Daisy. Dayan said the ship was built in Setauket in the late 1800s and was used in the last sail-powered Yankee whaling exhibition on earth. It was due to Long Island scientist, and one of the society’s founders, Robert Cushman Murphy, that the group was able to take ownership of it. Murphy, an ornithologist, started out on a journey on the Daisy planning to study the birds of Antarctica and during the trip decided to document whaling and later published the book “Logbook for Grace.”

The executive director said the staff is hoping “to get more adults in the building” with a few new programs. She said many adults walk into the museum to look around but don’t participate in the programs. This hope led to the launch of the museum’s Film Club, which will take place every Thursday at 2:30 p.m. during the months of February and March. Dayan said the viewings are free with paid admission to the museum or membership and will include free popcorn. The selection of films varies with both classic movies such as “Ship of Fools” (1965) and “Moby Dick” (1956) as well as contemporary ocean-themed films “Free Willy” (1993) and “Noah” (2014).

Dayan said it was felt that a film club would be popular after the successful museum event where six actors performed vignettes from the book “In the Heart of the Sea” in the whaleboat. She said it seems that adults enjoy films and live performances more than other activities.


A scene from ‘Moby Dick.’ Photo from The Whaling Museum A scene from ‘Moby Dick.’ Photo from The Whaling Museum

—Film Club schedule—
◆ Feb. 4: ‘Ship of Fools’ (1965)
◆ Feb. 11: ‘Noah’ (2014)
◆ Feb. 18: ‘Free Willy’ (1993)
◆ Feb. 25: ‘Moby Dick’ (1956)
◆ Mar. 3: ‘Whale Wars’
◆ Mar. 10: ‘The Whale’ (2015)
◆ March 17: ‘Treasure Island’ (1950)
◆ March 24: ‘Master & Commander’ (2003)
◆ March 31: Jacques Cousteau

On Fridays at 2:30 p.m., the museum will be offering Whaleboat Chats, which are free with paid admission to the museum or membership, too. Educators will be on hand to chat and answer visitors’ questions. “We found that when people come and visit whenever we have an educator present to talk about what they’re seeing, it tends to make their visits just so much more meaningful,” Dayan said.

On Feb. 19 the chat will be in honor of Black History Month and focus on the contributions that blacks made to the local whaling industry. In addition, on March 18 for Women’s History Month, the talks will center around the sacrifices of the whalers’ wives. Dayan said while many spouses stayed at home when their husbands were out at sea, others traveled on the ships with them and even gave birth during the trips. There were also many wives who were left to wait for long periods at far off ports, especially Hawaii.

“There are such interesting and different relationships that came about from this whaling culture,” she said.

Among other events, the museum staff is currently planning Thar She Blows, which will be held on Sunday, March 20, from 12 to 3:00 p.m. During this event, visitors can carve scrimshaws, hear live sea shanties and historical tunes, as well as touch authentic artifacts and get their faces painted.

On Sunday, April 17, there will be free admission for SoundOff! from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event will be the first of its kind in Cold Spring Harbor and will focus on building awareness of the Long Island Sound conservation through hands-on activities. Museum visitors also will be able to explore how the whaling era launched the country’s conservation movement.

For adults there’s the Whales, Ales and Salty Tales on Thursday, May 19, from 6 to 8 p.m. The night will consist of the stories of whalers and their sea-brews. Alan Short, who specializes in sea shanties, will sing the whalers’ songs while visitors enjoy beer sponsored by the Brewers East End Revival.

“There’s truly something for all ages here at the museum,” Dayan said.

In addition to the events and programs being planned, the year 2016 marks the release of the book “Whaling on Long Island” written by Dayan and published by the museum through Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series. According to the executive director, the book, scheduled for release on March 28, can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

Dayan said during 2016, the museum also will be conducting membership drives with different incentives, including the initial membership price of a dollar. New members can take advantage of the offer when they purchase a second year at the 2016 cost of $40 for individuals and $75 for families.

The executive director said it’s a great year to become a member. “We’ve recently transformed ourselves. Instead of just being about only whales and whaling, now we’re more about the relationship between people and the environment. Because if you think about it whaling is a very strong cautionary tale about how people treat each other and how people treat the environment, and we’re trying to pick up on those themes,” Dayan said.

Admission to The Whaling Museum & Education Center of Cold Spring Harbor is $6 for adults and $5 for seniors and children. Event and program fees vary. For more information about the museum, located at 301 Main Street in Cold Spring Harbor, call 631-367-3418 or visit www.cshwhalingmuseum.org.

The Tesla Science Center laboratory site in Shoreham is blocked off while it’s under redevelopment. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Science doesn’t come cheap.

So it was a pleasant surprise for the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe when the New York State Regional Economic Development Councils announced the center will receive two grants totaling $700,000. While the center has yet to receive the grants, the NYSREDC’s 2015 awards notice for Long Island is proof the grants are forthcoming. The state agency did not reply to messages prior to publication.

The center is slated to receive $200,000 through the Market New York grant program, which tackles public relations and increasing tourism, among other responsibilities. The remaining $500,000 will go toward the center’s Wardenclyffe site. The center is currently redeveloping this property and plans to establish the Nikola Tesla Museum and Science Center. The site is the last remaining laboratory of Tesla, a prominent inventor in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

According to Tesla Science Center President Jane Alcorn, the center applied for the grants this past July. Alcorn added applying for the grants is a competitive process as there are many applicants for these grants.

“It’s very exciting to have funds to promote our project and to work on the redevelopment of Wardenclyffe,” Alcorn said in an email.

Initially, the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe was known as Friends of Science East Inc. While its name changed, the not-for-profit mission to develop Tesla’s only existing laboratory site into a science center and museum remained the same.

In 2009, when Brookhaven Town Superintendent of Highways Dan Losquadro was a Suffolk County legislator and former state Assemblyman Marc Alessi was still in office, the two announced plans to acquire the 16-acre property. Former town supervisor, Mark Lesko, and state Sen. Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) were also part of this effort to acquire and preserve the property on behalf of the state and town, according to an article on the Tesla website.

Alessi emphasized its importance as the last Tesla lab in the world. He added that the site was culturally and historically significant as a result.

“We need to ensure that it is protected so that future generations can continue to enjoy this landmark,” Alessi said in the article.

Regardless of these officials’ plans, Friends of Science East purchased the property in 2013. The organization also hoped to preserve the site and make improvements.

Tesla built his facility in Shoreham in 1901-03. It was a small brick building no bigger than a schoolhouse. Yet behind the building was a 187-foot tower that Tesla intended to be a wireless power transmission station, which Tesla claimed would produce wireless electricity.

Now years later, the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe is looking forward to a brighter future for the site, and hopes to be able to do even more.

“We hope to apply for additional grants in the future [that] will assist in the continuation of progress toward the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe opening day,” Alcorn said.

Stephanie Gress has made a mark on the Vanderbilt Museum. Photo from Gress

By Victoria Espinoza

Stephanie Gress has made a mark on the Vanderbilt Museum. Photo from Gress
Stephanie Gress has made a mark on the Vanderbilt Museum. Photo from Gress

One employee at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum was a fan of the spot long before she started working there and improving many of the exhibits.

Stephanie Gress, director of the curatorial department, frequented the Vanderbilt as a kid growing up in St. James, and even went there on her second date with her future husband to see the Pink Floyd laser show at the museum’s planetarium.

“A lot of people have a fond memory from here,” Gress said in a phone interview. “My niece actually had her wedding here as well.”

Gress has been upgrading exhibits at the Vanderbilt for nearly 15 years. She said some of the collections in the museum were more than 100 years old when she stepped in and needed refurbishing, and she was able to find funding to make the renovations possible.

The first exhibit Gress focused on, the Habitat Gallery, had been closed to the public since 1996, but she reopened it in 2001. She received a Save America’s Treasures grant — through the National Park Service — to make the renovations possible, including cleaning and restoring taxidermied animals displayed inside the dioramas.

“There was a whole generation of people on Long Island who hadn’t seen the exhibit,” Gress said.

For two years, Gress has also been working on a project at the Hall of Fishes that involves working with dry and wet fish specimens. She said some of the fish are a century old, and they have to be treated with extreme care because they are so fragile.

Adult glasseye snappers, collected on Cocos Island, Costa Rica, in 1928. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum
Adult glasseye snappers, collected on Cocos Island, Costa Rica, in 1928. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

William K. Vanderbilt II, the museum’s founder, caught all of the fish himself, according to Gress, and some were the first of their kind ever caught, so “he had the fun task of naming them.”

She said she feels lucky to have found the money to finance these projects because that can be difficult, but is crucial to keep the displays in the museum in their best shape.

Gress likes many aspects of her job.

“I enjoy seeing the reactions of the kids and parents that come here,” Gress said. “There is nothing else like this on Long Island. You can’t see another polar bear or whale shark around here.”

She said aims to continue Vanderbilt’s intention when he created the museum, — to bring pieces of other countries and cultures to Long Island.

“You can choose to visit the planetarium, see the museum or even just take a picnic on the grounds.”

Gress wrote a book this year, “Eagle’s Nest: The William K. Vanderbilt II Estate,” which has details about why the museum founder built his estate in Centerport and “how the place changed over the years, based on changes in his life, and how we use it today,” she said when the book was being released over the summer.

In terms of future projects, Gress said in an interview this week that there is always something to work on, and she expects to soon digitize the collections online to bring them to people who can’t make the trip to the museum.