About this project
Thank you all so very much! I am overwhelmed by your support!
I've said many times that bringing the Mini Museum to the world is the fulfillment of my life long dream, but this really takes on a special meaning when I look through all the names on the list of backers. Your support has made this possible. The entire team is looking forward to the next stage of the journey!
My name is Hans Fex and I am the creator of the Mini Museum, the portable collection of curiosities from Earth and beyond!
The First Edition was the fulfillment of my life long dream. I am so grateful to all of our original Kickstarter backers - 5,030 people in 68 countries!
It was an honor to share that journey with all of you, which is why we're back to continue the adventure with a completely unique Second Edition!
A Mini Museum is a handcrafted, individually numbered limited edition collectible, designed to inspire learning and exploration. Every specimen in the Mini Museum is authentic, iconic, and labeled.
I've been collecting rare and fascinating objects for most of my life, ever since my father presented me with my first specimens in 1977.
Over the years, I've been fortunate to meet many amazing people including scientists, museum curators, astronauts and other adventurers. With their help, I've been able to assemble an incredible collection which I am now sharing with the world.
It should come as no surprise that creating a Mini Museum itself is a very complicated process.
Each specimen presents unique challenges and we've had to consult with craftspeople from around the world. I can't tell you the number of times that we've been told that we're trying to do something that can't be done... Yet, our team finds a way.
Of course, with a hand made product like the Mini Museum, there will always be variations. There may be tiny air bubbles, or a specimen may be shaped and sized differently. Specimens have also been known to shift or fragment slightly during acrylic curing. Such variations highlight the fact that each Mini Museum is hand made and absolutely unique.
As part of this project, I will detail processes behind many of the specimens through project updates. Some backers of the first project said the updates were almost as important as the reward itself. I'm going to do my best to go even further with the Second Edition.
This might sound familiar, yet I say it again: the Universe is amazing. I really want to remind people of that. How awesome would it be to own a collection of rare rocks from space, dinosaur and ancient mammal fossils, reminders of civilizations lost, and relics from some of the most talked about places and events in human history? And all in the palm of your hand?
The Mini Museum is a portable learning tool, a smart and rare ice breaker, and a wonderful piece of historical art.
Each Mini Museum is handcrafted and carefully encased in acrylic and ready to inspire you. Display it on your desktop, mantle, or coffee table. Or carry it in your pocket - Mini Museum can go wherever you go. It also makes a beautiful gift for the person who has everything.
The Second Edition of the Mini Museum contains twenty-six unique, carefully selected specimens, artfully arranged, and encased in Lucite® acrylic. As with the First Edition, this unique line-up of specimens will only be offered once.
There will only be one size for the Second edition, approximately 5"x4"x1". This is the same format as the Large Mini Museum from the First Edition. Please note: As the Mini Museum is hand-made, the finished dimensions of each collection will vary slightly.
In addition to these incredible specimens, each acrylic Mini Museum will arrive in a handsome display box designed just for the Second Edition. Acrylic Mini Museums will also be protected by a custom, micro-fiber pouch. Details about the display box and micro-fiber pouch will be shared in a project update.
More enhancements to the Second Edition appear below, but first I want to take a moment to talk about the Companion Guide, the book which describes each specimen.
I think it's important to help share the stories behind each specimen in a way that one can easily share with friends and family.
That's why we created a full-color book filled with details about the specimens and how they were acquired. We call this book the Mini Museum Companion Guide.
The Companion Guide is a great starting point for your exploration of the Mini Museum, but it also serves as a helpful backdrop when sharing the collection with others.
Backers of the First Edition will recall that the printed Companion Guide was an add-on. Given the importance of the Companion Guide to the entire experience, I've decided to include the printed version with every Mini Museum.
I'll have more to share about the Companion Guide in project updates, but now I'd like to go over all of the major enhancements to the Second Edition.
The Second Edition of the Mini Museum reflects many of the lessons we learned during the making of the First Edition. Below I've include a list of the major changes we've made for the Second Edition.
- Focus on a Single Acrylic Size - To get the most efficiency out of our production process we're focusing on a single acrylic size for the Second Edition, approximately 5"x4"x1". As the Mini Museum is hand-made, the finished dimensions of each collection will vary slightly.
- Advance Specimen Preparation - With most of the specimens prepared for inclusion, we'll be ready to begin immediate production when the campaign finishes. (P.S. Don't worry, we made sure to take lots of pictures for updates!)
- US-Based Manufacturing - With the exception of the custom, micro-fiber pouch, all components of the Second Edition will be produced in the United States. This change allows us to ship as Mini Museums are completed rather than waiting for the delivery of the full production run. It also reduces risks involved in specimen transportation and the final shipment of finished Mini Museums.
- Improved Clarity - While the First Edition surpassed all of my expectations, I wanted to see just how much further we could push ourselves in with the Second Edition so we've partnered with a renowned US-based acrylic casting company with decades of experience working in the world of art. Your Mini Museum will be manufactured using museum quality Lucite®, and the results are stunning.
- Laser-Etched Limited Edition Numbers - This upgrade will ensure that all text encased in acrylic is crisp and properly-aligned.
- Printed Companion Guide Included - After going back for a second print run on the First Edition Companion Guide, it was clear that we needed to include the printed guide with every Mini Museum. The Second Edition of the Companion Guide will be produced in the United States by a printer with deep experience in producing high-quality, perfect bound textbooks.
These enhancements come with a significant increase in manufacturing cost, but as always we have one goal in mind: making each Mini Museum the very best Mini Museum possible.
With the success of our first Kickstarter, you may ask why we've come back again for the Second Edition. As I noted in the video, we used the remaining funds from the First Edition to acquire and prepare specimens for the Second Edition. All we need now are the funds to execute a full production run.
There's also another reason to come back to Kickstarter for your support...
As a project creator, I can tell you there's a level of transparency and accountability on Kickstarter that creates a deep sense of focus. The entire Mini Museum team found this incredibly valuable during the making of the First Edition.
If the funding is successful, I'll have more to say as the project progresses. But for the moment, I'd just like to say that I feel very strongly about the the positive effect the Kickstarter community has on the development of a project.
The Mini Museum is a journey and we are looking forward to sharing it with all of you once more.
Thank you so much for taking the time to review our latest project. I hope you enjoyed it. Below you will find detailed descriptions and images of all the specimens in the Second Edition of the Mini Museum.
Now, it's back to work!
- Hans Fex, Creator and Chief Curator of the Mini Museum
ASTEROID BELT (c. 4,500,000,000 years old)
Between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter lies a ring of rocky objects known as the Asteroid Belt. Most objects in the belt are less than 1km in diameter, but there are several large, primordial remnants of the early solar system, including the protoplanet Ceres and the asteroid Vesta.
The specimen in the Mini Museum contains a mixture of different classes of meteorites known as HED meteorites (howardite–eucrite–diogenite). Direct observations by NASA's DAWN spacecraft indicate that HED meteorites come from a large impact basin in the southern hemisphere of Vesta.
MARTIAN ATMOSPHERE (Zagami)
Mars has a thin atmosphere which contains a mixture of elements found nowhere else in the solar system. A rare number of meteorites contain traces of the atmosphere in the form of tiny pockets of shock-melt glass. The molecules trapped inside these meteorites reveal clues to the deep past of our closest neighbor in the solar system.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from the Zagami meteorite, acquired directly from meteorite hunter Robert Haag who also provided samples to NASA for their research. Zagami is one of the most studied of all martian meteorites. In 2013, NASA's Rover Curiosity confirmed earlier atmospheric studies on Zagami shock-melt pockets by direct observation on the planet's surface.
LIBYAN DESERT GLASS (c. 28,500,000 years old)
Opaque and luminous yellow-green, the source of Libyan Desert Glass remains something of a mystery. There are many theories about the source though most evidence points towards a massive impact. Humans have known about this glass since the Pleistocene Epoch, creating tools and working the glass into decorations including a scarab belonging to King Tutankhamen's burial pectoral.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from several large fragments of Libyan glass, including darker glass which is thought to hold extra planetary material from the source body.
MT. FUJI (Lava)
At 3,776 meters, Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan. Yet, the modern Mount Fuji is actually three volcanoes in one: Komitake, Ko-Fuji, and Shin-Fuji. Over the course of the last several hundred thousand years, each volcano formed out of the remains of the last with Shin-Fuji becoming active roughly 10,000 years ago.
In 864AD, lava from a massive eruption of Mount Fuji filled part of ancient Lake Senoumi, creating Lake Sai, Lake Shōji, and Lake Motosu. The fertile land left behind became the Aokigahara Jukai or "Sea of Trees". This tranquil region also has the unfortunate distinction of being known as the Suicide Forest.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from a stone cutter near the Aokigahara. For five generations, this stone cutter's family has produced sculptures for shrines around Mount Fuji. It was provided by a friend of Hans who owns a cafe and bed and breakfast just outside the Aokigahara with a spectacular view of the mountain.
JAPANESE STAR SAND (Microfossils)
Foraminifera are single-celled creatures which produce a diverse range of beautiful and tiny protective shells. These shells appear in the fossil record as far back as 550 million-years, and in some locations, entire beaches are made up of these so-called "foram sands".
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from a private collection obtained many years ago from Hoshizuna-no-Hama ("Star Sand Beach") on the island of Iriomote in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan.
DIMETRODON (Spine Sail)
With its fearsome jaw and reptilian appearance, Dimetrodon is often mistaken for a dinosaur even though the species died out long before the age of dinosaurs. Dating back to the Early Permian Age nearly 300 million years ago, Dimetrodon falls into a clade known as Synapsids which includes Mammals. The purpose of the Dimetrodon's iconic spine sail is unknown, though speculation and study has ranged from thermoregulation, to sexual dimorphism, and perhaps even locomotion.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from several fragmentary spine sails found in West Texas. This region, known as the Texas Red Beds, contains one of the most complete fossil records of the Early Permian.
AMMONITE (c. 110,000,000 years old)
Ammonites are an extinct group of marine cephalopods which entered the fossil record 400 million years ago. Their iconic shells exhibits a nearly perfect logarithmic spiral. This form is found in many natural phenomenon, from the shape of galaxies and hurricanes to patterns on sunflower heads and the approach flight of many animals.
The specimen in the Mini Museum are Cleoniceras from Madagascar, recovered from the Albian Stage of Lower Cretaceous formations.
STEGOSAURUS (Dorsal Plate)
Stegosaurus is one of the best known of all dinosaurs. Armored with twin rows of bony-cored plates and sharp tail spikes, it is easy to imagine Stegosaurus defending itself from the teeth and claws of Allosaurus, a fellow Jurassic Period icon.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from a fragmented Stegosaurus plate recovered and reconstructed by a paleontologist working on private land.
When we think of dinosaur fossils we usually imagine bones and teeth but fossilized skin and scales have also been discovered along with feathers.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from an Edmontosaurus, a hadrosaurid common during the Late Cretaceous Epoch and purchased directly from paleontologists working in the field on private land.
RAW EMERALD (Colombia)
We often hold up purity as the chief virtue of the rare and beautiful, but in the world of crystals it is the impurity which often set the stone apart and makes it desirable. Beryllium aluminum silicate, also known as beryl, is a colorless crystal. Yet, the addition of chromium causes the beryl to turn green, becoming an emerald. Emeralds are rarer than diamonds due to the complicated geological forces required to produce the right combination of minerals.
The specimen in the Mini Museum is a rough emerald from Colombia, acquired from a private seller. Colombia emeralds are unique among the rare world of emeralds due to the near absence of iron which often results in a deeper green color.
HELL PIG (Jaw)
During the Eocene Age, a new apex predator arose on the plains of Eurasia and North America. Popularly referred to as "Hell Pigs", Entelodonts had enormous jaws which could open nearly 90 degrees. Given that some species stood nearly 2 meters at the shoulder, it's not hard to imagine how Entelodonts came by their nickname.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from the lower jaw of an Archaeotherium, a cow-sized species of Entelodont which dominated the plains of North America for six million years.
LA BREA TAR PIT (c. 38,000 years old)
The La Brea Tar Pits are one of the most well-known petroleum seeps in the world. Excavated animal remains at La Brea comprise nearly 700 different species and date back 40,000 years to the Late Pleistocene.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from a selection of mined La Brea Tar Pit material which contained the remains of coyotes, dung beetles, rabbits, and even a bald eagle. Recently, scientists have discovered living microbial communities in these ancient layers, leading to new ways of thinking about life here on Earth and elsewhere.
MAMMOTH MEAT (19,551 years old)
For thousands of years, the Woolly Mammoth was a dietary staple of many early humans groups across Europe, Asia, and later in North America. In recent decades, well-preserved mammoth remains have been recovered from northern regions once covered in ice.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from a well-preserved wooly mammoth discovered near the Indigkra River in Siberia, Russia and radiocarbon dated to 19,551 years old.
NEANDERTHAL HAND AXE (c. 40,000-140,000 years old)
Once thought to be nothing more than hair-covered brutes, stone tools discovered in an ancient cave above the French village of Le Moustier first opened our eyes to the possibility of a Neanderthal tool-making culture. Additional finds extended this culture across Europe and Central Asia, reaching back well over one hundred thousand of years.
Recent genetic studies have also uncovered the fact that many of us have Neanderthal DNA embedded in our own modern genetic code. Neanderthals are not just a divergent species; they are part of us.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from the collection of a retired French postman. He spent decades traversing rural France, and collecting Mousterian stone tools. The tools have been validated by experts in the field, with estimated ages between 140,000 and 70,000 years old.
BRONZE AGE DAGGER (12th Century BCE)
For 2000 years, the Eastern Mediterranean was home to a series of increasingly sophisticated Bronze Age cultures bound by complex trade routes. Then, in the late 12th century BC, empires from Greece and Anatolia to Egypt and Babylon collapsed in a rapid wave of famine, political upheaval, and war.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from a pair of daggers dated to the late 12th century BC after the style of the Mycenaean culture. The blades were acquired from an antiquities house specializing in ancient armaments.
OASISAMERICA (Ancient Ceramics)
The history of the Native American people is a complex web of unique societies and civilizations stretching across two vast continents and many thousands of years. Our modern understanding of this history has changed much in recent decades, moving from ignorance to awe to an awakening of the subtle connections between distinct cultures that still exist today.
Stretching across the American Southwest and Northern Mexico, Oasisamerica is just one of many cultural "superareas". For over one thousand years, several complex agricultural societies flourished in this region. In addition to beautiful ceramics, they built large and complex irrigation systems, multi-story dwellings, and conducted extensive trade with other societies thousands of kilometers away.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from a range of ceramics associated with three of these ancient societies: Ancestral Puebloans (also known as Anasazi), the Mogollon, and the Hohokam.
MEDIEVAL CHAIN MAIL (c. 15th century CE)
Valued for flexibility in combat, chainmail was the primary defensive armor in Europe for more than one thousand years. Nearly all chainmail follows a four-in-one ring pattern created by the Celts in the 5th century in which a single riveted ring connects four punched rings.
The specimen in the Mini Museum is a complete ring from a 15th century chain mail hauberk acquired in private auction. This period is considered the zenith of chainmail, as advanced plate armor began to supplant mail.
SHIPWRECKED PIECES OF EIGHT
The real de a ocho, or Spanish "pieces of eight", was created in 1497 and went on to become the world's first global currency. The coins were accepted across the Spanish Empire and in many other countries.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from the wreck of the Concepción which sunk on 1641 and was recovered in 1978 by Burt Webber, Jr. protege of the great treasure hunter Mel Fisher.
PETRIFIED LIGHTNING (Fulgurite)
When lightning strikes dry sand (with about a billion joules of energy) the discharge melts and fuses the silica into tubes of rough glass known as fulgurites. The process occurs in less than one second, creating complex and beautiful branching structures sometimes over 40' in length.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from fulgurites collected in the Sahara Desert. Analysis of saharan fulgurites provides additional evidence that the region was once more hospitable to life.
HINDENBURG (Airship Skin)
At precisely 7:25 PM on May 6th, 1937, the Hindenburg burst into flames above the skies of Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey. The Hindenburg was the largest airship ever flown. Its fiery destruction and the deaths of 36 people ended the age of lighter-than-air flight.
The specimen in the Mini Museum is from a piece of airship skin retrieved at the scene by journalist Harry Kroh. Kroh was a local reporter dispatched to cover what was expected to be a routine landing, but turned into one the most well-covered disasters in history.
GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE (Suspension Rope)
On May 27th, 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge opened to the public. The bridge was a marvel of engineering and daring. It represents the will and brilliance of people who achieved what others said could not be done. To this day it remains the world's most photographed bridge.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from one of the original 250 pairs of vertical suspension ropes. The ropes were replaced in the mid-70s, and the State of California sold some of the material to help pay for the work. The process took four years and was itself considered a major engineering feat.
The modern Olympic Games are the manifestation of the ideals of Pierre de Coubertin, who in 1894 revived the 3,000 year old concept of the Greek Olympiad as a practical, hands-on extension to the peace education movement of his day. Coubertin's goal was nothing less than peace among all nations, which he hoped to bring about through a program of sport emphasizing the unique value of each human body.
Over the last century, the sheer scale of the modern Olympic Games has come to mirror the complexity inherent in global human relations. Yet, Coubertin's Olympic motto, "Citius, Altius, Fortius" (Faster, Higher, Stronger), has served well as a reminder of the indomitable human spirit at the heart of the Games.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from a torch used in the Athens 2004 Olympic Torch Relay. This relay was the first global relay, with thousands of runners spanning every continent except Antartica.
ASTRONAUT MIX TAPE (Skylab, 1973)
An unmanned SkyLab launched on May 14, 1973. During the first minute of the flight, the micrometeoroid shield designed to protect SkyLab deployed early and crushed two of the space station's solar panels. Just days later, the astronauts scheduled to activate SkyLab found themselves in the position of rescuing the space station. Between risky EVAs and interior working conditions exceeding 130F, the three-man crew of Pete Conrad, Joe Kerwin, and Paul Weitz not only managed to stabilize SkyLab but also completed the scientific objectives of the mission.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from a mission-flown mix tape prepared for pilot, Paul Weitz. The cassette was acquired at auction and has been digitally preserved. The complete playlist and tracks will be made available to all project backers.
FIRST SUPERCOMPUTER (Cray-1)
The Cray-1 was the first commercially successful supercomputer. Earlier attempts to create a viable supercomputer involved the use of incredibly complex integrated circuits. Seymour Cray, turned this convention on it's head using just three different types of integrated circuits across the entire machine. This approach yielded a machine that was so advanced a bidding war ensued for the first machine off the line and launched the legend that became Cray Research.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from Cray-1 memory boards originally installed at Lawrence Berkeley Labs.
STAR WARS IV (Krayt Dragon Vertebra)
On May 25th 1977, George Lucas' Star Wars premiered in theaters. The film was an instant, but unanticipated success. It quickly became a global phenomenon.
I was about 7 years old when Star Wars released, and it influenced me greatly. I saw 'A New Hope' the same year I came up with the idea for the Mini Museum. And if I remember right, I saw it with my brother Anders.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from the prop vertebra of the "Krayt Dragon", the long serpentine skeleton C-3PO encounters on Tatooine. After the original filming, the production team left the Krayt Dragon as well as the several sets in the Tunisian desert. The area has become something of an attraction with locals excavating material and selling it to film location tourists.
MOON TREE (Apollo 14)
In 1971, Apollo 14 carried astronauts Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell, and Stuart Roosa to the moon along with hundreds of tree seeds. It was thought that the seeds would no longer be viable, but surprisingly, most of the seeds survived and were germinated and dispersed by the U.S. Forest Service as part of the nation's bicentennial celebration in 1975 and 1976.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from the downed limb of a first generation Moon Tree on the University of Arizona campus in Tucson, Arizona. The limb was damaged in a storm and saved by Senior Research Specialist and White House Champion for Change, Dolores Hill. We are incredibly grateful to her for this rare and unusual specimen.
Risks and challenges
This is the team's second Mini Museum project, so we have a good handle on the risks associated with the project. Still, creating a Mini Museum is an extremely complex process. Each specimen in the Mini Museum has its own unique challenges and the scale of the project may also lead to unexpected delays. We've taken every step possible to mitigate potential issues. As with our last project, we plan to provide detailed and timely project updates to keep backers advised, informed, educated and at times entertained.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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