The Bakken Museum, located between the Linden Hills and West Calhoun neighborhoods, testifies to the potential for science, technology and the humanities to make the world a better place. Its remarkable historical journey includes the unlikely combination of frog legs, Frankenstein and the life-saving pacemaker.
The exhibits tell a story spanning over a hundred years. Starting in 1818, Mary Shelley observed disembodied frog legs twitch in response to applied electrical current. Challenged to write a ghost story, she wondered if perhaps a corpse could be re-animated and became the author of the first science fiction novel, Frankenstein. In 1932, 8-year-old Earl Bakken was fascinated by electricity and mesmerized by the movie version of Frankenstein. He grew up to build the first portable and implantable pacemaker and created the library and museum of electricity known as The Bakken Museum in 1976.
Offering engaging, hands-on exhibits, The Bakken Museum explores the advances of science and technology throughout history with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)-focused learning. The Spark of Life exhibit explores how our bodies, brain, and heart make and use electricity. Compare the size of your heart and resting heart rate to an elephant, monkey and bat.
Challenge a friend to a Mindball competition by moving a ball across a tabletop with your brainwaves. Visit Ben Franklin’s Electricity Party and literally shock your friends with the entertaining elements of static electricity. Meet Mary and her monster, Frankenstein, and watch her tell her story riddled with scandal and tragedy in the immersive object theater. Explore Deep Roots: Plants as Medicine, the newest horticulture exhibit, and match the plant with the commonly known medication.
The Bakken Museum offers a variety of youth programs and outreach opportunities as well. Noel Clark, marketing and communications production coordinator, encourages young inventors by inviting students to visit the museum or bringing science and technology to local schools and communities.
“Dream it, build it and test it,” Clark says. Imagine and build Lego robots, experiment with electronic tones or enhance your creative skills by joining the Inventors Club, a six-week program for girls and boys. Experience summer camp, including a girls’ only camp, every weekday to thwart boredom. Book a birthday party and choose from magnetic and electric themes.
Jedet Martinez, a sophomore at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, works as an intern at The Bakken Museum five days a month. She describes her docent duties as herding kids, answering questions and working behind the information desk. “But my favorite part,” says the math-minded Jedet, “is working in the accounting office.”
And it’s not all for kids. Clark invites curious adults to attend an Evening@TheBakken. Enjoy a cocktail and treats after hours and experiment with science, walk the distinctive gardens and explore the West Winds mansion with hidden time capsules. Reserve a garden or the mansion for a wedding or corporate event. Not only will The Bakken Museum satisfy your intellectual curiosity, they have a kitchen to cater your favorite cuisine.
Clark is currently working on a mini-teaser of future exhibits starting in January 2018. The Bakken Museum has big plans to retire a few older exhibits and transition to even more innovative, hands-on electrifying experiences.
Hours: 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Tuesday–Sunday, closed Monday.
Entry fees: $10 adult, $8 teens and seniors, $5 kids 5–12, kids under 5 and members free.