BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – There are more than 700,000 items in the Buffalo Museum of Science’s collection, way more than could ever be on display to the public at any given time. But, Western New Yorkers can still see many of the items for themselves during a behind-the-scenes tour, offered as part of the museum’s adult programming.
Every quarter, the museum offers three different tours, focusing in-depth on one topic covered by the collection, whether that’s the items in the Cabinet of Curiosities collection, which include things like a two-headed calf, or pieces from the Knox money collection, including a massive Yap stone, once used as a form of currency on the island of Yap.
Curator of Collections Kathryn Leacock says it’s important to give the public a chance to see these pieces of our cultural heritage, whether they’re on display in one of the museum’s many exhibits or not.
“We’ve been in Buffalo since 1861. We’re a public institution,” she said. “It’s not the museum’s. It’s not mine. This belongs to Western New Yorkers. It belongs to the people of Buffalo.”
Western New Yorkers who take a behind-the-scenes tour can see everything from animals that live in Western New York now to animals that lived in Western New York 13,000 years ago, like mastodons. There are also many anthropological treasures, including masks from Mexican cultures and even a collection of items that were exhibited by the Buffalo Museum of Science during the Pan-American exposition.
News 4’s Katie Alexander had the check out some of the items that can only be seen on a behind-the-scenes tour. Watch the videos below to see our full Wake Up coverage.
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Currently, only about 12 percent of the Buffalo Museum of Science’s collection is ever on display for the average visitor to see. “A museum is like an iceberg, and only a small portion of its collection is on exhibit at one time,” Leacock said.
Many items that aren’t on display are loaned to other museums around the country, or they’re used by visiting researchers in Buffalo.
For example, many of the fish species that are displayed in jars in the herpetology room behind the scenes were collected from the Great Lakes in the 1960s and 70s, and no longer can be found there. “It’s sort of like a time capsule of what the Great Lakes looked like at a particular time,” Leacock explained, adding that the collection data is useful not only in studying what once lived in the Great Lakes, but also in studying invasive species that have found their way there over the years.
Leacock says every item in the collection tells a story.
With so many items available, it can be difficult to choose which stories are shared in the public displays at any time, but the museum staff always tries to keep the exhibits relevant, finding connections with everything from popular Youtube videos to anniversaries to the different seasons throughout the year.
Winter, of course, is a good time to put out the penguins from the collection, and to give visitors a look at some rarely-seen Bentley snowflake micrographs, which are rotated onto display a few at a time. The Buffalo Museum of Science has the largest collection of Bentley snowflakes in the world.
“If you haven’t been to the Science Museum in a while, it’s probably time you came back,” Leacock said.
The Buffalo Museum of Science is usually open seven days a week, but it will be closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.