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Discovering Fort Collins’ ever evolving museum

The music

The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery is constantly evolving with new exhibits such as the flood theater experience or the Nano technology showcase. The museum operates a community oriented engagement of 130 volunteers and works with such organizations as the Historical Society and the Forest Service.

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As it stands, the museum has shaken hands with 113,000 visitors since its establishment back in November 2012.

However, the museums focus on music is unprecedented. Instruments, not just on display but ready for play. The exhibit floor is littered with music booths eight feet high. Once inside a booth, there is an instrument — such as a guitar, plugged into an iPad that is ready to teach you how to play. The iPad’s have step-by-step instructions for beginners and more advanced material for experts. There’s even an option to send a request to another booth/person to jam with you.

“It is wonderful that the museum’s interactive exhibits get the public thinking about music and its incorporation in everyday life,” said Dr. Dawn Grapes, Assistant professor of Music History at Colorado State University. “Even more important is the excitement generated in children for music production.”

Teaching volunteers how to work the music lab floor was Forrester, a museum employee.

“Sometimes people come in that really know how to play — I’ve jammed with a 60-year-old and I’ve played with a bunch of music school children,” Forester said.

Forrester started volunteering at the old museum at age six and their oldest volunteer is 94.

“If you volunteer in the music zone then you pretty much tune instruments all day and watch children bang on the drums,” Forrester said. “This is where I get to lose my hearing.”

The room had instruments on display set up like a concert stage.

“There’s an open jam garage from 1-3 every day. We do recordings on Thursdays, from 3-5. Then Friday you come in and master your track,” Forrester said. “We want people to see the whole process of it.”

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The dome

The Otter-Box Digital Dome is a 50 ft. diameter spherical screen that arcs over your head as you sit — eager to experience a stunning display of interactive and educational digital shorts, staff members like Ben Gondrez play several times every day.

“You can think of it as a planetarium — but kind of on steroids,” said Gondrez, FCMoD Employee and former CSU Computer Information Graduate. “And I’m its technological Swiss army knife.”

Gondrez seemed enthusiastic when speaking about the Digital Dome and also very proud.

“We have pre-rendered movies of different topics from space and earth sciences, to prehistoric sea creatures,” Gondrez said. “Traditional planetariums had star balls that would project points of light onto a dark surface — now we have 5 different projectors that all project onto the screen, in 4k resolution… We are one of the few domes using LED projectors.”

Gondrez turned on the back lights behind the dome canvas and showed off the back of the projection screen. There were 5.1 surround sound speakers. He also displayed two videos that demonstrated the capacity of the Digital Dome. The images/flow of the video are crystal clear and flawless.

The Digital Dome rivals the Fisk Planetarium (CU Boulder) in clarity, depth and resolution however, it is half the size of the Planetarium. Overall it is an essential aspect to the museum.  Offering a closer look and experience at subject matter that wouldn’t be as impactful if it was set on a pedestal for display only.

The certification

The Fort Collins Museum of Discovery (FCMOD) has been promoted to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) status.

The Museum of Discovery, situated on the north edge of Old Town, has been distinguished as a Facility of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

The museum is situated on the Poudre River, utilizing the River’s Edge Natural Area, a site chosen to help interact with its surroundings.

There are binoculars for bird-watching with guides to help people identify the various types of birds. There are outdoor science/nature labs and even an outdoor amphitheater.

“When they selected this site it was the number one choice because it’s on a brownfield,” said Cathy Jones, director of marketing for the FCMOD.

Brownfields are former commercial or industrial areas of land, which had pollution and contamination waste left behind.

Along with the unique location and utilization of the museum, there are many solar panels located on top of the museum’s roof.

“All of this helped us earn Leed status — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design,” Jones said.

Along with being environmentally friendly, the museum is home to one of the biggest archives in the state.

“This is where the history of the city lives,” said Cathy Jones, director of marketing for the FCMOD. “We have hundreds of thousands of articles, photos, artifacts and stories open to the public.”

Collegian Reporter Scott Fromberg can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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