Houston Museum of Natural Science in Sugar Land

Updated on March 12, 2020
Peggy W profile image

I live in Houston, and I have worked as a nurse. My interests include art, traveling, reading, gardening, cooking, and our wonderful pets.

Entrance sign
Entrance sign | Source

Prison Turned Into Museum

This Houston Museum of Natural Science Sugar Land was at one time a prison farm. It was the first industrialized prison farm in the state of Texas and was built entirely with prison labor. The cost was a mere $73,000 when the prison was completed in 1939.

Central State Prison Farm, Camp Two was nicknamed Two Camp by the inmates as well as correctional officers. Back in those days, all Texas prison farms were self-sufficient. Inmates worked at several jobs like building railroad tracks, working in lumbering, and mining.

At Two Camp, farming was the primary job. Cotton, the principal crop, was tended mostly by African-Americans. Segregation was the norm in the prison system at that time.

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The exterior of the Museum of Natural Science Sugar LandExterior of HMNS Sugar Land Exterior of HMNS Sugar Land
The exterior of the Museum of Natural Science Sugar Land
The exterior of the Museum of Natural Science Sugar Land | Source
Exterior of HMNS Sugar Land
Exterior of HMNS Sugar Land | Source
Exterior of HMNS Sugar Land
Exterior of HMNS Sugar Land | Source

Living Conditions Inside The Prison

Goods and services were shared between units of the prison system. Inmates elsewhere made the bricks used in constructing this massive building. Food was grown and shared. Inmates could eat all they wanted, but no food was to be wasted for fear of punishment.

The prisoners at this unit lived in sizable communal dormitories referred to as “Tanks.” Up to 80 prisoners shared a tank. Personal belongings were in lockers along the wall. The rest of the open space contained bunks, showers, sinks, toilets, urinals, and a barber chair.

Bars extended above the lockers to the ceiling, and inmates could see into the adjoining tank. There were four tanks on the first floor and three on the 2nd floor. Also on the 2nd floor were guard’s quarters, a recreation hall, schoolhouse, laundry, and infirmary. The doctors and dentists operating out of the infirmary were also inmates. In cases of more severe injuries or illness, the inmates would be transferred elsewhere for treatment.

Hard labor was the norm during the week, but on Saturdays and Sundays, some time was allowed for sports like baseball or boxing. Attending school classes or church services and visits from family members were also on those weekend days. Evenings provided time for watching movies or practicing for talent shows.

The information above, along with pictures of some of the inmates, is inside of the museum. The data is on large poster-type boards attached to a wall on the first floor next to a simulated archeological Dig Pit for children.

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Notice the holes in brick where bars used to be when this was a prison. Portion of gift shop Large 2,000 gallon saltwater aquarium Longhorned cowfish in aquarium Fish in large aquarium Wood Duck family
Notice the holes in brick where bars used to be when this was a prison.
Notice the holes in brick where bars used to be when this was a prison. | Source
Portion of gift shop
Portion of gift shop | Source
Large 2,000 gallon saltwater aquarium
Large 2,000 gallon saltwater aquarium | Source
Longhorned cowfish in aquarium
Longhorned cowfish in aquarium | Source
Fish in large aquarium
Fish in large aquarium | Source
Wood Duck family
Wood Duck family | Source

Post Segregation

When segregation of prisons ended (1968-1969), this building became a storage unit. A land developer eventually purchased it and, in 2008, was transferred to the City of Sugar Land.

The opening of the Houston Museum of Natural Science in Sugar Land took place on October 3, 2009.

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Skulls of different animals displayed Petrified wood examples
Skulls of different animals displayed
Skulls of different animals displayed | Source
Petrified wood examples
Petrified wood examples | Source

Tyrannosaurus Rex

On the first floor at the Museum of Natural Science at Sugar Land is a cast skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex which would have lived 65 million years ago. Alive in that same period is a museum cast of a Struthiomimus dinosaur that was an “ostrich mimic.” Both came from the Cretaceous Period.

Most people are aware that the Tyrannosaurus Rex dinosaur was a carnivore. According to a sign, not only was his vision excellent, but he had a “sense of smell better than two dozen bloodhounds combined.”

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Looking down at T. Rex dinosaur + Struthiomimus Tyrannosaurus Rex & Struthiomimus Dinosaur casts at HMNS Sugar Land Looking up at Tyrannosaurus Rex & Science on a Sphere
Looking down at T. Rex dinosaur + Struthiomimus
Looking down at T. Rex dinosaur + Struthiomimus | Source
Tyrannosaurus Rex & Struthiomimus Dinosaur casts at HMNS Sugar Land
Tyrannosaurus Rex & Struthiomimus Dinosaur casts at HMNS Sugar Land | Source
Looking up at Tyrannosaurus Rex & Science on a Sphere
Looking up at Tyrannosaurus Rex & Science on a Sphere | Source

Spherical Globe

Science on a Sphere is impressive to view. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration designed a projection system that “allows pictures and videos to be warped and displayed on a spherical surface.” It almost looks like a planet floating in the air. The images of the continents and clouds swirling about must be somewhat similar to what our astronauts view when looking at earth from the international space station.

Science on a Sphere
Science on a Sphere | Source

See and Learn About Frogs

There is quite a sizable display regarding frogs on the first floor of the Houston Museum of Natural Science. One of the informative signs makes it clear that “Technically speaking, all toads are frogs, but not all frogs are toads.”

There are almost 500 species of toads. Toads do have warty looking skin, but contrary to what some people believe, they do not give a person warts because of touching them. The toxins which can be squirted or ooze out of a toad’s glands are foul-tasting. That lousy taste protects them against predators. In some cases, it can be toxic enough to kill an animal the size of a dog.

Cases containing live frogs were adjacent to boards, telling all about them, including their natural habitat. Information regarding the Smokey Jungle Frog aka Leptodactylus pentadactylus was the following:

“The Smokey Jungle Frog builds foam nests for its eggs on land or in the water. When the hungry tadpoles hatch, they will even eat each other! The powerful legs of this frog make it an excellent jumper and a culinary delight in some countries. Large frogs like the Smokey Jungle Frog, play an important role in the food chain by eating mice, birds, insects, and other frogs.”

The so-called “Frog Capital of the World” is Rayne, Louisiana. A Parisian by the name of Jacques Weil established a company that shipped fresh bullfrogs by rail to restaurants like Sardi’s in New York. The shipped frogs were in the dark and on ice.

Frogs are associated with fertility, childbirth, abundance, and prosperity in many cultures.

Some of the live frogs on display inside the museum include the Red-eyed Tree Frog, Vietnamese Mossy Frog, Dyeing Poison Frog, and the American Bullfrog, among others.

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Smokey Jungle Frog Frog Mola Frog Frog info. Information about frogs
Smokey Jungle Frog
Smokey Jungle Frog | Source
Frog Mola
Frog Mola | Source
Frog
Frog | Source
Frog info.
Frog info. | Source
Information about frogs
Information about frogs | Source

Rocks and Minerals

A small, darkened cave-like room on the first floor has an impressive display of Fluorescent Minerals. Part of the sign reads as follows:

“These ore samples are all from the mines of the Franklin and Sterling Hill mining districts in the northwestern corner of New Jersey, world-famous as a source of fluorescent minerals. The ore bodies of these mines are unique mixtures of zinc-manganese-iron found nowhere else in the world. This unusual combination has produced over 340 different mineral species in the mines, over 80 of which fluoresce, glowing in a rainbow of bright colors when exposed to ultra-violet light.”

In natural lighting, these rocks look just like ordinary rocks. It is only under ultra-violet light that they become items of exceptional beauty.

I love the rocks and minerals section on the 2nd floor of the Houston Museum of Natural Science in Hermann Park. While it is more extensive than what is on display in this Sugar Land branch museum, there are giant-sized specimens here. Many of them are taller than the average man in height.

It is incredible how the colorful and glittering insides of these rock formations form a sharp contrast to their more drab exteriors. Of course, some crystalline structures grow beautifully and need not be cut open to be admired.

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Fluorescent Minerals Rocks & Minerals So Many Rocks & Minerals! Quartz Variety AmethystRocks & Minerals displayed at HMNS Sugar LandApophyllite with Stilbite
Fluorescent Minerals
Fluorescent Minerals | Source
Rocks & Minerals
Rocks & Minerals | Source
So Many Rocks & Minerals!
So Many Rocks & Minerals! | Source
Quartz Variety Amethyst
Quartz Variety Amethyst | Source
Rocks & Minerals displayed at HMNS Sugar Land
Rocks & Minerals displayed at HMNS Sugar Land | Source
Apophyllite with Stilbite
Apophyllite with Stilbite | Source

Rocks From Outer Space

Meteorites from outer space are also on display.

“The large, stony Allende Meteorite shows a black fusion crust, produced as atmospheric heating melted the stone’s exterior during its fiery descent. This sliced Allende Meteorite shows light-colored, calcium-aluminum inclusions (or CAIs) that are 30 million years older than the Earth and 700 million years older than the oldest known rock on Earth.”

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First Meteorite discovered by ground penetrating radar on display at HMNS Sugar Land The Allende Meteorite Iron Meteorites
First Meteorite discovered by ground penetrating radar on display at HMNS Sugar Land
First Meteorite discovered by ground penetrating radar on display at HMNS Sugar Land | Source
The Allende Meteorite
The Allende Meteorite | Source
Iron Meteorites
Iron Meteorites | Source

Solar System

There is much to learn about our solar system as well as stars and nebulas in this museum. They even have a small Digital Dome Theater that has different shows every half hour.

Most people enjoy the presentations by laying on the floor while gazing up at the curved ceiling. A few chairs are at the back perimeter for those who may have a problem quickly getting up from the floor. We enjoyed one of the shows which portrayed possible reasons for the extinction of dinosaurs.

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Information regarding planets in our solar system Stars & galaxies information Nebula info.Digital Dome Theater inside the museum
Information regarding planets in our solar system
Information regarding planets in our solar system | Source
Stars & galaxies information
Stars & galaxies information | Source
Nebula info.
Nebula info. | Source
Digital Dome Theater inside the museum
Digital Dome Theater inside the museum | Source

So Many Dinosaurs!

Speaking of dinosaurs, many of them, both large and small, are on display on the second floor. It is incredible to think that creatures such as this once roamed our planet. I certainly would not wish to tangle with anything that large or dangerous-looking like some of the ones on display!

It is one thing to look at excavated bones on display but then another entirely to look at a simulated fleshed-out dinosaur-like one of the ones below. Yikes! Look at those teeth!

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Triceretops horridus – Early Cretaceous – 145 Million Years ago Giant Ground Sloth cast -Eremotherium Pleistocene – 700 thousand years agoPachycephalosaurus – The Butt Head Dinosaur – Late Cretaceous Lancian Age Armored Dinosaur Ankylosaurus magniventris – Cretaceous – 145 million years ago Coelophsis – Triassic Carnivorous Dinosaur 210 million years ago A Coelophsis – Triassic – 210 million years ago Dinosaurs & Fossils Dinosaurs & Fossils
Triceretops horridus – Early Cretaceous – 145 Million Years ago
Triceretops horridus – Early Cretaceous – 145 Million Years ago | Source
Giant Ground Sloth cast -Eremotherium Pleistocene – 700 thousand years ago
Giant Ground Sloth cast -Eremotherium Pleistocene – 700 thousand years ago | Source
Pachycephalosaurus – The Butt Head Dinosaur – Late Cretaceous Lancian Age
Pachycephalosaurus – The Butt Head Dinosaur – Late Cretaceous Lancian Age | Source
Armored Dinosaur Ankylosaurus magniventris – Cretaceous – 145 million years ago
Armored Dinosaur Ankylosaurus magniventris – Cretaceous – 145 million years ago | Source
Coelophsis – Triassic Carnivorous Dinosaur 210 million years ago
Coelophsis – Triassic Carnivorous Dinosaur 210 million years ago | Source
A Coelophsis – Triassic – 210 million years ago
A Coelophsis – Triassic – 210 million years ago | Source
Dinosaurs & Fossils
Dinosaurs & Fossils | Source
Dinosaurs & Fossils
Dinosaurs & Fossils | Source

Many Examples of Fossils

Fossils of all types are in abundance at this natural science museum. There were cases and cases of them on display!

Here is some information about Crinoids. “Crinoids, also called “sea lilies,” are animals related to sea urchins and starfish.”

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Fish Ichthyodectes ctenodon – Late Cretaceous Giant Armadillo fossil Holmesina Many fossils at HMNS Sugar LandSmall Theropod Dinosaur fossil from Late Jurassic Trilobite – Late Cambrian Many fossils Simulated Sea Creatures - Apophyllite with Stilbite
Fish Ichthyodectes ctenodon – Late Cretaceous
Fish Ichthyodectes ctenodon – Late Cretaceous | Source
Giant Armadillo fossil Holmesina
Giant Armadillo fossil Holmesina | Source
Many fossils at HMNS Sugar Land
Many fossils at HMNS Sugar Land | Source
Small Theropod Dinosaur fossil from Late Jurassic
Small Theropod Dinosaur fossil from Late Jurassic | Source
Trilobite – Late Cambrian
Trilobite – Late Cambrian | Source
Many fossils
Many fossils | Source
Simulated Sea Creatures - Apophyllite with Stilbite
Simulated Sea Creatures - Apophyllite with Stilbite | Source

Interactive Displays

There are many interactive, hands-on displays on the second floor where adults and children can become educated on many different subjects. A Block Party Too Room is set aside for adults and their children for some playtime fun. There is a slight extra charge to use this room as there is for the Archeological Dig Pit on the ground floor designed for kids.

Another room is set aside for meetings and parties, such as birthday celebrations. It was not being utilized on the day of our visit but offers generous space for various type affairs. Personnel at the museum can check for available times and schedule appointments.

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Interactive educational equipment on 2nd floor at HMNS Sugar Land Room available for meetings or parties
Interactive educational equipment on 2nd floor at HMNS Sugar Land
Interactive educational equipment on 2nd floor at HMNS Sugar Land | Source
Room available for meetings or parties
Room available for meetings or parties | Source

Much to See and Do

It is a delightful museum in which to learn about our natural world and be entertained at the same time. The staff is amiable and helpful.

If you wish to see live Red-bellied piranhas or view a reconstructed scary-looking jaw of a Megalodon, make plans to visit this delightful museum. From the fantastic adult skull of a Trombone Duckbill dinosaur to simulated sea creatures that once existed to Titanosaur dinosaur eggs, there is that and much more to be discovered. A person could spend several hours in this museum or even entire days.

From the permanent microscope lab to special programs, field trips, and student labs, there is something here for everyone. Seasonal holiday program offerings will surely entice further visits to this museum for many people.

Location

Future expansion plans include a full-sized planetarium, a theater, and classrooms. Where to find this fabulous museum: 13016 University Blvd., Sugar Land, Texas 77479.

Do you enjoy visiting natural science museums?

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Related Information:

http://www.hmns.org/hmns-at-sugar-land/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Unit

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyrannosaurus

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinosaur

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2020 Peggy Woods

    Comments

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      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        7 days ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Robert,

        I know how you like visiting museums. I am sure that you would enjoy this one in Sugar Land, and our even larger natural science museum in Houston.

      • Robert Sacchi profile image

        Robert Sacchi 

        7 days ago

        Great pictures. This seems a great museum to visit.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Peg,

        So glad to know that you enjoyed reading about the natural science museum in Sugar Land. We have an even larger one in Houston!

      • PegCole17 profile image

        Peg Cole 

        3 weeks ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

        Fascinating visit to this place that had such a dynamic history. Thanks for sharing this glimpse into the museum and its artifacts.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Ruby,

        It is amazing to think that dinosaurs once roamed the earth! Many changes have happened over the eons of time.

      • always exploring profile image

        Ruby Jean Richert 

        3 weeks ago from Southern Illinois

        This is a great presentation. I would love to go to Sugar Land to see this museum. Isn't it amazing that we once had dinosaurs roaming the earth? The rocks are beautiful too. The history surrounding the museum is also interesting. Thanks for sharing.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Bill,

        That was a clever way to repurpose an existing building by using it as a science museum. Thanks for your comment.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Pamela,

        I don't think that the prisoners built the museum, but they had jobs there while being incarcerated. Glad you liked learning about the Sugar Land natural science museum.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi FlourishAnyway,

        The Sugar Land natural science museum keeps kids and adults happy. As to eating frog legs, I did try them once out of curiosity. To my palette, frog legs taste a bit like slimy chicken. Perhaps it was just the way they were prepared. I have not eaten them since.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Liz,

        The information about the building is easily accessible after entering the museum. Photos of the former inmates, and the storyline is posted on wall displays for everyone to read.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Bushra,

        There are several places in the U.S. where they have located dinosaur fossils. Thanks for your comment.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        3 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

        I love that they retrofitted a prison,and I love me some natural science. I would definitely visit this place.

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        3 weeks ago from Sunny Florida

        This museum ios full of very unique items and it looks very interesting. The fact that it was built by prisoners is also a point of interest. I imagine the men ate fairly well as they grew their own food. Thanks fo anothe interesting place to visit in Houston,.

        Stay healthy Peggy!

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        3 weeks ago from USA

        This is a really neat place with a diverse history. Those dinosaurs, animals and space shows could really keep kids interested. I’ve always wondered about the frog legs and what restaurants did with the rest of the poor frog. So sad. I’d never eat that. Seems so cruel and wasteful to have quadriplegic or paraplegic frogs. Wink, wink.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        3 weeks ago from UK

        This is an exceptionally well-illustrated article. I appreciate the way that you have researched back and explained the previous history of the building.

      • Bushra Iqbal profile image

        Aishatu Ali 

        3 weeks ago from Rabwah, Pakistan

        Interesting! I don't think dinosaur fossils have ever been found in my part of the Punjab. It would be so cool to find even one!

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