César Chávez Day

31 03 2012

Did you know March 31st is César Chávez Day? This day is celebrated in Texas, Colorado, and California!

César Estrada Chávez was born on March 31, 1927 in Yuma, Arizona and passed away in 1993. He was a Mexican-American farm worker, leader, and civil rights activist who pushed for the development of labor unions for workers. He eventually formed the National Farm Workers Association (along with Dolores Huerta), later becoming the United Farm Workers (UFW) to fight for better wages and better working conditions.

His aggressive but nonviolent approach made the farm workers’ struggle a moral cause with widespread support throughout the country.
Chavez was charismatic and self-taught. He created a community that came together by inspiring well educated Latino idealists and encouraged them to offer a liberating  devotion to the farmworkers’ movement. His slogan is “Sí, se puede!”, which means “Yes, we can!”

In 2008, President Barack Obama stated:
“Chavez left a legacy as an educator, environmentalist, and a civil rights leader. And his cause lives on. As farm workers and laborers across America continue to struggle for fair treatment and fair wages, we find strength in what Cesar Chavez accomplished so many years ago. And we should honor him for what he’s taught us about making America a stronger, more just, and more prosperous nation. That’s why I support the call to make Cesar Chavez’s birthday a national holiday. It’s time to recognize the contributions of this American icon to the ongoing efforts to perfect our union.”


Historical Spotlight: Jeans!

8 11 2011

If you look in your closet, most of your pants are blue aren’t they? That’s because blue-jeans are the most popular type of pants. So do you know the history of these trendy trousers?

As American as we think jeans are, the history of blue jeans actually goes back to 16th Century Europe. The story goes that “jean” derives from the word Genoa. It refers to the material that sailors from Genoa used in their pants. On the other hand, the origin of the term “denim” can be traced to late 16th century France where a fabric known as “serge de Nimes” (Twill from Nimes) was very popular. Both fabrics grew in popularity, but denim was the stronger and more expensive of the two.

By the late 19th century, weavers in America were making fabric in the same fashion as the European denim, but using the locally produced cotton fibers. The material had a reputation for being very strong and not wearing out quickly, in spite of many washes. That’s why you can get away with wearing jeans for days on end!

The modern history of blue jeans starts with Levi Strauss. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? That’s because you can still buy Levi jeans today! Levi moved to California in 1853 during the Gold Rush. He followed his family business , and opened a dry goods store where he sold fabric. His denim fabric became very popular in the region, where prospectors needed strong material to last while gold mining all day.

A tailor named Jacob Davis bought Levi’s fabric and started making men’s work pants with metal points of strain for greater strength. Those rivets of metal along your jeans may seem small but they are what make them durable and strong. Without rivets, the pockets would rip. Levi and Jacob Davis went into business together and jeans have been unstoppable since.

We’ve gotten even more creative with manufacturing jeans now, some companies have even started making them out of recycled plastic bottles!

So jeans can be traced back to 16th century Frenchmen, Italian sailors, and Californian gold-rushers! Now you know that your baggy-jeans , hip-huggers, bell-bottoms, pre-washed, and distressed jeans, they’re all a part of history!

Origami Origins Unfolded…

30 09 2011

Have you ever made a paper plane? Well I bet as you made it you didn’t know you were practicing origami, did you? Origami which means paper folding in Japanese, is just that: folding paper. But it is much more complex than your average folded sheet. The way in which you fold your paper can create many intricate designs. The traditions of paper folding are rooted in China and go as far back as 100 A.D. That’s 1,911 years ago!

One of the most common things to create in origami is a crane. The Japanese word for crane is Tsuru, and the bird is a symbol for happiness, good luck, and peace. For the Japanese, the crane also represents long-life, as it was believed in tales that a crane could live 1,000 years! That’s why the belief is that if you fold 1,000 paper cranes you will be granted a wish by the mystical bird.

Come check out our 1,000 paper cranes here at ACM. The paper cranes here were created by the Thousand Cranes of Peace project. Their project provides resources to families seeking peace from domestic violence.

If you’d like a wish to be granted, learn how to fold the famous crane here: Origami Peace Crane.

And if you would like a simpler origami project, follow the slideshow below to make your own origami house!

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Let us know how your origami projects turned out! And tell us about a wish you have worth 1,000 paper cranes.

History of Fingerprinting

28 07 2011
At ACM’s Get a Clue camp, campers sharpen their  logic and detective skills by investigating mysteries, solving riddles and cracking codes.  One of the favorite activities at camp is to take each other’s fingerprint.
Imprinting the friction ridges of a person’s fingertip onto a surface is an easy way to uniquely identify someone.  No two people have been found to have the same fingerprint and because of this, fingerprinting is used for many purposes, including crime solving.
The first modern, official use of fingerprinting as a way of identifying people was July 28, 1858 when a British magistrate, William James Herschel in India requested a local businessman put his hand print on the back of a contract.  Herschel developed to the system because he thought locals felt more bound to a contract through this personal contact than if it was just signed.  After 40 years of observing the fingerprints over time, Herschel also determined that fingerprints never change with age.
Although fingerprinting had been used as early as ancient Babylonia to seal clay tablets, this was the first time a government made fingerprinting a protocol to use to distinguish people.  Almost 40 years later a policeman in Argentina began to keep fingerprints on file of criminals for investigating crimes.  Now fingerprinting is a fundamental technology used in criminal investigations.
You can take your fingerprint at home.  All you need is some tape, a pencil, some white paper and a magnifying glass. Read the rest of this entry »

View from the Capitol Restoration Project

27 10 2010

Have you noticed the scaffolding on the Capitol?  Teams of talented men and women are working on the Capitol Restoration Project.


Ross Anders sent us these pictures of the Capital and they made us very curious! We printed out the pictures and asked some museum visitors if they had any questions to ask Ross. We came up with some questions of our own too, and Ross was kind enough to answer them for us…

ACM: What was your role in the restoration project?

Ross: I am the Project Manager for the entire project which includes the Dome, the Exterior Roof Features, and the House of Representatives Chamber Ceiling Repainting.  As Project Manager I managed both the design and construction process for the entire project working as a representative for the owner who is the State Preservation Board.

ACM: How did you become involved with the project?

Ross: My company was selected by the State Preservation Board to manage the Project.  The President of my company, Dave Stauch, was the Project Manager for the Capitol Restoration and Expansion completed in the 1990’s.

“How did you get up there?” -Keondrick, age 9

Ross: The trip to the top starts with a long climb up a spiral staircase to the top of the Dome where you can see windows.  Then, when you step outside, you begin a ladder climb straight up for about 40 feet.  Then another separate ladder climb of about 25 feet to get up to the star. It is 315 feet from the ground all the way up to the star!

“How does it feel on top of the Capitol? Is it scary?” -Camila, age 6

Ross: I was a little nervous the first time but now I’m used to the height and climb.  It’s not too scary at all because the scaffolding is very safe. Being at the top of the Capitol is really fun because you can see all around the City of Austin.  From UT to the lake and from the western hills all the way to the airport! It’s very beautiful on a clear day.

“When will the project be done?” -George, age 5

The House of Representatives Chamber Ceiling Repainting is completed and the furniture is getting moved back in soon.  The scaffold is scheduled to be removed from the Dome by December 18th, 2010.  Just before the holiday break!

Visitor also had questions about the Capitol Building.

How Tall is the Capital? – Katherine, age 10

308 feet

Who is holding the star? – Jacob, age 9

The Goddess of Liberty statue probably represents Athena, the Greek Goddess of wisdom, justice, arts, and crafts who was regarded as the protector of Athens in ancient times.

How did they get the star and statue on top of the capital? – Kierra, age 7

Weighing approximately 2,000 pounds the original statue was hoisted to the top of the capitol in four separate pieces in 1888. Workmen assembled the statue securing it with large iron screws. The original  statue is now in the Bob Bullock  Texas State History Museum, and a replica sits atop the Capitol.

Thank you Ross Anders for sharing this amazing experience with us and thank you to the visitors who asked such wonderful questions!

A Museum Without Walls

14 04 2009
  • In 1983, a “Museum without walls” was established to serve and reach the Austin community.
  • In 1987, this group of entrepreneurs got thier first building and and space to make a children’s museum.
  • In 1997, they moved to thier current location and have been reaching children and parents alike. Their mantra is “Families learning together”.
  • In 2009 the Museum is in the stages of planning for a new museum.

Does this story sound familiar to you? It’s actually OUR story. It is how Austin Children’s Museum started out and came to be!

The museum is excited to see another generation of children coming to the museum. When I got to thinking about all this I started to wonder, “What was the museum like back then?”

ACM transformedI had the pleasure to sit down with Becky Jones, Director of Education, and learn about what the museum was like 21 years ago, and how it has changed. Her favorite exhibit is En mi Familia, and she loves learning about new things and “Endulging in her own curiosities.”  In our interview, Becky compared the museum’s birth and growth to a butterfly. This is a great metaphor!

A Butterfly lays an egg. When it hatches, a tiny caterpillar crawls out. This caterpillar goes through many changes and stages in his life. When he grows too big for his skin, he sheds his layers so he can keep growing. Then the caterpillar goes into a cocoon for a little while. When its ready, it opens up into a beautiful butterfly!

The museum is like a butterfly. As we grow we will continue to equip and inspire children and their families. Wow! this sounds exciting! I can’t wait!