by Chris Clemens
In 1913, when Edward D. Putnam became the first curator of the Rochester Museum & Science Center (RMSC)–then, Rochester Municipal Museum, Robert Ripley of Ripley’s Believe It or Not! was playing for the NY Giants. Neither could have imagined what their futures would hold. They certainly couldn’t have anticipated each other’s work crossing paths in 2017.
Rochester Museum & Science Center
Like most adults who’ve grown up here, I have fond memories of visiting the Rochester in 1838 diorama, the life-size mastodon, and the indigenous people’s exhibits. Age has allowed me to experience those same exhibits through a new set of glasses, but also to experience their featured limited-time exhibits.
Adding to their attractions for all age groups, the museum hosts a few events throughout the year that are designed specifically for the over-21 crowd. Their “After Dark” series provides an opportunity to experience the museum with special demonstrations, displays, performances…and even a little alcohol.
RMSC’s newest exhibit features the stories and collections that is The Science of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. While I’ve enjoyed most of the exhibits over the years, this one was particularly exciting for me. Childhood memories of visiting wax museums in Lake George or the Ripley’s museum in Niagara Falls all came flooding back as I read press releases about the unveiling. To make it even more enticing, the After Dark: Carnival of Curiosity appealed to all my personal interests.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not
Robert Ripley’s Believe It Or Not feature first published in the New York Globe in 1919. He used the space to share oddities and obscurities that often were so outlandish they didn’t seem believable. Ripley would later curate his collection of bizarre facts and stories in a series of books. Then, in 1933 at the Chicago World’s Fair, he displayed a collection of outrageous items that would soon give him the idea for establishing a series of museums.
Now, the Rochester Museum & Science Center has the honor of hosting an incredible treasure of curiosities from the Ripley’s collection. Through January 2, 2018 visitors can climb through a replica of a gigantic prehistoric snake, compare their height to an animatronic mannequin of the World’s Tallest Man, stand inside the mouth of a shark, and a whole bunch more.
The collection features a really great balance of interactive displays and informational panels. So, if you’re an adult who likes reading facts, or a kid who loves to play, (or vice versa) The Science of Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! exhibit is one you’ll easily connect with.
As an added bonus, Rochesterians will appreciate a small collection dedicated to local lore like Rattlesnake Pete!
After Dark: Carnival of Curiosity
This past Friday evening, the museum transformed from its usual family friendly atmosphere to a sold out 21-and-older “carnival” featuring games, interpretive fire dancers, vaudeville performers, and even a pumpkin explosion that gave the crowd an opportunity to let loose at the museum.
Like previous After Dark events I’ve attended, the energy was lively and fun with attendees from a variety of ages and backgrounds. A few visitors even dressed in costumes like television artist Bob Ross, a marionette and some court jesters.
The sold out event featured a bunch of really great opportunities to experience the museum in a totally different way, and it was pretty obvious that I wasn’t the only one in attendance to enjoy it.
Not that I’d play favorites, but the Big Head Boxes created by guest vendor Rochester Mini Maker Faire were definitely a highlight! If you were there too, I hope you got a chance to try them out, too.
To plan your visit to the Rochester Museum and Science Center you can get more information on their website, and you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If an After Dark event sounds like fun, start planning for their next one in February with a Olympic theme!
Chris Clemens is the Founder/Publisher of Exploring Upstate. From his hometown in Rochester, he spends as much time as possible connecting with the history, culture, and places that make Upstate New York a land of discovery. Follow him on Twitter at @cpclemens