Museum News

DFW science museum gets all hands-on with updated Human exhibit

DFW science museum gets all hands-on with updated Human exhibit

Perot Museum rendering
Perot Museum's Human exhibit will have more more more. Perot Museum

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science is opening a newly-transformed exhibit hall with more hands-on features, experiential experiences, and sheer wow.

According to a release, the Dallas museum will unveil the newly-reimagined Being Human Hall, located on Level 2, with twice as many interactive displays than the original, on May 11.

Guests will explore the traits and abilities that are essential and unique to being human, including the complexities of the brain, hands, face, and voice.

Adorned with bold graphics, images, and digital media, the content will concentrate on the many aspects of what it means to be human. Because what is more interesting than humans? Nothing on this planet, that's what.

Perot Museum CEO Dr. Linda Silver agrees. "We believe guests will be thrilled with the captivating design, the 'must-be-touched' bilingual content, and the cutting-edge exploration of a universally popular topic – ourselves!" she says in a statement.

New content will center on research and discoveries spanning from the days of early ancestry, to modern-day characteristics, to the scientific breakthroughs of local Nobel Prize Laureates.

One must-see feature is the virtual-reality experience that puts visitors in the middle of the South African cave where internationally acclaimed paleoanthropologist Dr. Lee Berger recently identified a new species of human relative, Homo naledi.

In a coup for the Museum, Dr. Berger is now a distinguished science advisor of its Center for the Exploration of the Human Journey.

"The transformation of the Being Human Hall delivers on a commitment Museum leaders made early on – to keep visitors curious and engaged with scientific content that is fun, topical and compelling," Silver says.

Visitors will encounter:

  • a preserved human brain and spinal column
  • a vein viewer
  • a "true mirror" that reveals how others perceive you

Guests will be able to "see" their voices; test their agility and hand-eye coordination through maze balance boards; and try on a prosthetic running blade.

They’ll come face-to-face with Lucy, the well-known early human relative Australopithecus afarensis, as well as a dogface puffer fish with personality and DNA that is strikingly similar to humans. There's a display that examines regional accents, y'all, and a machine that lets you use your brain power to fire off pulsing lights.

The Being Human Hall will have:

My Face. In this age of instant selfies, the entrance gallery of the new hall invites guests to visualize and analyze their faces in unexpected ways. The variety of human faces and their connection to personal and cultural identity is explored through a display of masks from around the world, and visitors are encouraged to create their own take-home wire sculpture self-portraits. And the popular Wooden Mirror – that uses a tiny camera to capture a guest’s image and interpret it as pixelated wooden tiles – is back, but with a new hyper focus on the face.

My DNA. This section of the hall explores how DNA helps humankind understand who they are and from where they come. Guests can bring early humans to life and see how small shifts in DNA can alter appearance by transforming their very own faces into Homo erectus or Australopithecus afarensis. Digital touch screens will allow visitors to manipulate characteristics like eye color and hairline to create imaginary offspring and to trace the movement of humans through history and geography. Not to be missed is a dogface puffer fish with a big personality who playfully interfaces with guests while holding intriguing connections to human DNA.

My Hands. Fun facts about these intricate appendages greet guests to this section along with an examination of how humans use and communicate with their hands. Visitors can challenge themselves – or their friends – in a “text versus type” speed challenge, a test of strength while hanging onto wall grips by their fingertips, or a dexterity demonstration as they attempt to run a wand through a puzzle without setting off the buzzing alarm. Guests also can explore a prosthetic hand while watching video testimonials explaining how the devices have restored capability and improved the lives of fellow North Texans. Finally, guests can view the veins in their hands using near-infrared light and mimic a bionic hand performing sign language. 

My Brain. Brains allow humans to make sense of and interact with the world, but sometimes the way brains perceive things might be surprising! Why is it so hard to draw while looking in a mirror? How can one set of words look like something, but sound like something else? A “true mirror” flips guests’ faces twice, allowing them to see themselves not as they normally would in a mirror, but as others see them or as they appear in photos. An interactive “hand changer” befuddles the brain by modifying what visitors see when they look at their own fingers. By merely thinking, guests can send brain wave messages through a headband of circuits to fire up colorful pulsing lights. Visitors must coordinate their eyes, ears and muscles to balance and steer a ball through a maze while standing on a shifting platform. Stories from those impacted by brain injury explore neuroscience and research to retrain the brain. Finally, guests will get an up-close view of one of the world’s only displays of a human brain with a still-intact spinal cord, thanks to a partnership with UT Southwestern Medical Center.

My Walk. In one of the most physically active sections of the hall, guests will strike pose after pose to duplicate the upright figures on an interactive screen or capture their own upright gait in a digital tracker. Guests can see how prosthetics provide balance and coordination to those less able and even try on a prosthetic running blade to learn how they restore the many functions that knees, muscles, ankles and feet provide. Nearby touchscreens elaborate how Dallas scientists develop these amazing tools and how they are using technology to evaluate and enhance the speed and power of athletes.

My Voice. The human voice can communicate complex thoughts and emotions. An interactive voice visualizer lets guests “see” their voices in shape, color and size on a giant screen while a vocal identifier projects words through different accents heard around the U.S. Interactive microphones allow visitors to alter the pitch of their voices with the turn of a dial and confuse their brain’s cognitive processes by speaking words that play back on a slight delay.

Becoming Human. Visitors are encouraged here to explore where they fit into the evolutionary tree. Casts of fossil skulls, hands and feet invite guests to compare themselves to early humans. A dozen authentic stone tool artifacts, some more than a million years old, are displayed by a full figure of “Lucy,” the famous Australopithecus afarensis. Groundbreaking research from world-renowned paleoanthropologist Dr. Lee Berger, the newly named distinguished science advisor of the Perot Museum’s Center for the Exploration of the Human Journey, explains how he and his team of scientists learn about human history through the fossils predecessors left behind. A virtual reality experience, developed by Grooves Jones, transports guests into the South African cave system where Berger discovered a new species of human relative.

Bio Lab. This guest-favorite lab experience is returning with new, hands-on experiments for guests 8 and up. Use bone models and rocks to solve an anthropological mystery, explore how separating liquids is similar to separating DNA, examine electricity within a living worm, and extract wheat DNA for inspection under a microscope.