“Our mother was a teacher and our dad was an engineer by training,” says Carolyn Rathjen, one of Perot’s daughters and the museum’s board chair. “We’ve always wanted? to honor them in a big way, and this made sense because of the museum’s content, mission and focus.”
Nicole G. Small, the Eugene McDermott chief executive officer of the Perot Museum, can’t conceal her Texas-size pride in the new building, which she calls “remarkable from the word go.” In part, that’s because the building itself reinforces the lessons taught within. There’s a rainwater-collection system that fills two 25,000-gallon cisterns, and air conditioning condensation will be recaptured to meet irrigation and plumbing demands. Also, much of the building’s wiring and inner workings were intentionally left exposed to illustrate technology and engineering and to increase awareness of energy usage. Small expects the building to receive the coveted Gold LEED rating from the U.S. Green Building Council, along with credentials from the Green Building Initiative and the Sustainable Sites Initiative.
Small explains that the Perot Museum grew from a merger of three Dallas-area museums: the Dallas Museum of Natural History, The Science Place and the Dallas Children’s Museum. These bloodlines give the Perot a rare three-part convergence of science, technology and nature. The museum is smaller in size than such national fixtures as New York’s American Museum of Natural History and The Field Museum in Chicago, but one could argue its mission — which Small describes as everything from “dinosaurs to DNA” ?— is every bit as ambitious.
“Few, if any, museums have rolled all these institutions up into one,” she says. “We’re covering engineering and technology and innovation and dinosaurs, and we can tell lots of stories to lots of folks in lots of ways.”
That emphasis on storytelling — about biology, mineralogy, paleontology, technology and every other “ology” in the Perot portfolio — is critical to the museum’s success, especially when it comes to capturing the hearts and attention spans of today’s tech-savvy young people.
Now You Know:
Thirteen frog sculptures, lit from within, can be found at the museum’s science park.
One experience that certainly won’t fit onto an iPad is the Perot Museum’s colossal Alamosaurus (not named after Texas’ Alamo), an 85-foot sauropod that was one of the largest animals ever to live on land. The museum’s curator of earth sciences, Dr. Anthony Fiorillo, who came to the Dallas Museum of Natural History in 1995, says there simply wasn’t room at the old museum to display such a creature. As such, this is the first time the Alamosaurus has been assembled for viewing. “I got so tired of explaining to people what this Alamosaurus would look like,” says Fiorillo. “Now, we can say, ‘There it is. Look for yourself.’ ”