About this project
My name is Hans Fex and I am the creator of the Mini Museum, the personal collection of curiosities from Earth and beyond!
Since our first Kickstarter, we've shipped more than 10,000 Mini Museums all over the world. I am so grateful to all of our backers and we're excited to come back to Kickstarter to share the all-new Third Edition with everyone. So let's get started!
A Mini Museum is a handcrafted, 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 gave me 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.
The full collection for the Third Edition of the Mini Museum contains 29 unique, carefully selected specimens. Each Mini Museum is artfully arranged, and encased in Lucite acrylic. As with our first two editions, this line-up of specimens will only be offered once.
The "Large" version of the Mini Museum measures 5"x4"x1" and contains all 29 specimens in the Third Edition:
The "Small" version measures 4"x3"x1" and contains 12 specimens:
Of course, with a handmade 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 casting. Such variations highlight the fact that each Mini Museum is handmade and absolutely unique.
In addition to these amazing specimens, your Mini Museum will arrive in a handsome Display Box designed just for the Third Edition. A Certificate of Authenticity will be included in the box and the Mini Museum will be protected by a custom, micro-fiber pouch. You'll also receive a special book with your Mini Museum which we call the Companion Guide.
The Mini Museum is an awesome collection to have and hold. To help you share the Mini Museum, we created a full-color book called the Mini Museum Companion Guide.
For the Third Edition, we're excited to announce that the Companion Guide will return to the hardbound version we used in the First Edition. We've also expanded the content for each specimen to provide even more details. In many ways, this is our most ambitious project to date and we have so much to share!
Every specimen has its challenges and the Third Edition presented some of the most difficult situations we've ever faced. Along the way we pushed ourselves further than ever before, creating miniature, handcrafted art pieces at a new level of detail. I couldn't be happier with the way these amazing new specimens turned out.
With a full year of development behind us, we have so many amazing stories to share. For example, in the underwater, time-lapse video below, we've compressed eight minutes of high-tech cutting time into just a few seconds.
This is just one step in the lengthy process of creating the Samurai Sword specimen. This brief glimpse is just a sample of the effort and care we put into creating the Third Edition.
As with our last two projects, I'll cover many of the specimens in detailed project updates. From the incredible variation of life...
... to the unraveling of an Enigma.
New challenges and new friends...
... not to mention incredible help from past Mini Museum backers!
Putting together the Third Edition has been an epic adventure. I can't wait to share it all with you!
Backers of our first two projects know how strongly I believe in Kickstarter. The support of this community is what's made the Mini Museum possible and allowed me to fulfill my life long dream of sharing my love of science and history with the world.
To me, this picture represents what Kickstarter is all about. It's an honor to return once more to ask for your support for the Third Edition. Thank you all so very much for taking time to learn more about our latest collection. I hope you're as excited as I am to continue the journey.
Now, it's back to work!
- Hans Fex, Creator and Chief Curator of the Mini Museum
SPACE GEMS (4,557,000,000 years old)
Created in the heart of an asteroid soon after the birth of the solar system, Pallasite Peridot is among the rarest and oldest gems. Pallasites are characterized by a unique matrix of the mineral Olivine embedded in solidified iron and nickel. This combination of two materials of contrasting densities is as surprising to science as it is beautiful to the eye.
The specimens in the Mini Museum are fragments of Peridot from the Jepara meteorite discovered in 2008 on the Indonesian island of Java. The original mass weighed 499.5 kg (1100 lbs) with a diameter of just 85 cm (33 in).
OLDEST EARTH (4,374,000,000 years old)
Zircons are quite common in the crust of Earth. They are shed through the process of erosion once igneous rocks reach the surface, at which point the zircons are incorporated into new sedimentary layers. In Western Australia, the rough, sedimentary layers of the Jack Hills formation contain the oldest zircons ever discovered. In addition to being the oldest known samples of Earth's crust, the zircons of the Jack Hills formation also contain water and the earliest suggestions of life in the form of biogenic carbon.
The specimen in the Mini Museum is a small piece of the Jack Hills formation north of Perth in Western Australia. The specimen was purchased from Tom Kapitany of Crystal World and collected in accordance with Australia's cultural heritage and mining laws.
GREAT OXYGENATION EVENT (3,020,000,000 years old)
The Great Oxygenation Event marks the buildup of oxygen in the Earth's early atmosphere. The evidence of this Great Oxygenation Event is found across the planet in the striking red, black, and silver colors of Banded Iron Formations. With thousands of millimeter and submillimeter-thick layers, banded iron is the result of oxygen released in the early acidic seas by photosynthetic cyanobacteria. Lasting more than a billion years, this process resulted in the semi-permanent oxygenation of Earth's oceans.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from the Mid Archean Pilbara supergroup formation located in Western Australia. The estimated age is of this group is over 3 billion years old. The specimen was recovered by Tom Kapitany of Crystal World in strict accordance with Australia's cultural resource protection legislation.
OLDEST RIVER (Finke, 400,000,000 years old)
The sinuous Finke River in Australia has mesmerized human beings for thousands of years. Aboriginal mythology ties the creation of the river's curves to the Rainbow Serpent which shaped the entire landscape of Australia after the Dreamtime when the world was flat and still. These wildly meandering curves cut deep into the mountains and hills of Central Australia. This suggests that the river must be even older than those hills which formed roughly 300-400 million years ago during a mountain-forming event known as the Alice Springs Orogeny.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from the bed of the Finke River. The river was free flowing when Hans collected the small sample, which is an unusual occurrence. We are greatly indebted to Hank Ebes for the generosity of his time in introducing Hans to the natural beauty of Australia.
Over the last 200 million years, the "primitive" look of the Araucaria hasn't changed much. Averaging 30-60 meters in height, these conifers feature straight, columnar trunks and branches covered in overlapping, scale-like leaves.
It should come as no surprise that scientists believe this conifer was a favorite food for long-necked sauropods. Recent digestive studies suggest that Araucaria is capable of yielding a surprising amount of energy when fermented for long periods.
The specimen in the Mini Museum is a fragment of Araucaria from Queensland, Australia located in strata dating to the Jurassic. The specimen was purchased from Tom Kapitany of Crystal World. It was collected in accordance with Australia's cultural heritage and mining laws.
CRINOID (170,000,000 years old)
Sometimes referred to as feather stars or sea lilies, crinoids are members of an extended and very ancient family of sea animals known as echinoderms. An integral part of the explosion of complex life during the Cambrian Period, the symmetry of the crinoid's body plan is fascinating and beautiful.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from the center of a crinoid stem, also known as a "columnal". It was recovered near Talsint, Morocco. The fossil beds in this region are from the Bajocian Age of the Middle Jurassic Epoch.
Topping out at just over 18m long (59ft), Spinosaurus is one of the largest carnivorous dinosaurs ever discovered. This family of semi-aquatic theropods also happens to be among the most surprising creatures in the fossil record. In some species, the spines in the namesake sail measure more than 2 meters in length, providing the framework for an impressive structure that would rise high above the water.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from the Kem Kem Beds in Morocco. During the Cretaceous Period, this region was part of a vast river system. In recent years members of the Spinosaurus family have been found in many parts of the world including Europe, South America, and even Australia.
Covered in rows of bony plates and wielding a powerful clubbed tail, the Ankylosaurs are one of the most distinctive and successful of all dinosaur families. Spread across more than 90 million years of the fossil record, various species of this sturdy dinosaur can be found on every continent on earth.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from Ankylosaurus dermal plates recovered by paleontologists working on private land. Large and oval in shape, these scutes are consistent with the armor that protected the neck and shoulders of Ankylosaurus from the sharp teeth of predators.
If we look first to the sea, the Mesozoic Era might not be known as the Age of Dinosaurs, but rather as the Age of Marine Reptiles. Beginning with the appearance of the dolphin-shaped Ichthyosaurs in the Triassic Period, the rising seas of the Jurassic Period led to a wide variety of large predators including the long-necked plesiosaurs and pliosaurs to the powerful Mosasaurs.
Mosasaurs ranged in size from 1.1m (3.3ft) to 17.4m (57ft). Their skulls were flexible and their jaws were double-hinged. While this arrangement probably allowed a Mosasaur to swallow prey whole, the alignment of a Mosasaur's teeth with "bony crypts" to protect emerging teeth also suggests Mosasaurs likely crushed bones as frequently as they tore into flesh.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from the muzzle of a juvenile Tylosaurus proriger. This species typically grew to a length of 15m (50ft). The specimen was collected on private land in Western Kansas.
SAN ANDREAS FAULT
On the morning of April 18th, 1906, a powerful earthquake woke the city of San Francisco at precisely 5:12AM. Fires resulting from the quake destroyed 80% of the city, killing more than 3,000 people and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. It was as violent an introduction as one could imagine to the presence of the 28 million year-old San Andreas Fault.
Disconcerting as this may be, the 1906 quake is not the largest quake possible along the San Andreas or even the largest that's occurred in the past. All along the fault's 1300km (800mi) spine, we can see the history of two continental plates grinding past each other.
The specimen in the Mini Museum was recovered from the Tejon Pass, where the interface between the North American and Pacific plates are directly exposed and easily accessible. Each specimen is comprised of parts of both plates.
The Megalodon shark dominated the oceans of the world for over 20 million years. Reaching sizes upwards of 18m (59ft) in length, the largest Megalodon jaw reconstruction measures 3.3m (11ft) across and 2.7m (9ft) tall. Computer models suggest that a full-grown Megalodon had the most powerful bite of any known animal in the fossil record, somewhere between 11 and 18 tonnes or 25,000-40,000 pounds. This epic jaw was also lined with enormous teeth - 46 in the front row, to be exact, with 5 more rows waiting behind.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from the fossilized tooth enamel of a Megalodon shark. The teeth come from the coastal rivers of South Carolina, one of the most popular regions for hunting Megalodon teeth.
MOLDAVITE (14,400,000 years old)
For many years, a pastoral region of southern Germany was thought to be the remains of an ancient volcanic crater. Imagine the surprise when it was discovered that the the Nördlingen Ries Basin was in fact an asteroid impact site some 14,400,000 years earlier.
In an instant, a 1.5km wide asteroid released 2.4×10^21 joules - enough energy to power the entire modern human world for more than six years. This tremendous blast gouged out hundreds of cubic kilometers of material and created created a complex array of materials, from new metamorphic rocks studded with impact diamonds to stunning, green gems called Moldavite.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from Moldavites found in the Bohemia region of the western Czech Republic. 99% of all Moldavites come from this region.
GIANT SLOTH (Claw)
Often known for their great claws and ungainly appearance, ground sloths were a very successful family of mammals. The largest species evolved during the Pliocene epoch in the midst of a period of great migration between North and South America. This "Great American Interchange" lasted millions of years, beginning with island hopping and peaking as animals crossed freely over the newly formed isthmus of Panama.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from the tip of an Eremotherium claw, discovered on private land and partially restored by George Heslep. Eremotherium stood roughly 4m tall (20ft) and weighed 3,000 kilograms (6,600lbs).
DIRE WOLF (Bone)
The real dire wolf was one of the most successful predators of the late Pleistocene epoch. Ranging from Alaska to Bolivia, this muscular carnivore fed on a wide variety of large prey including bison, camels, horses, mastodons, and mammoths... even giant sloths!
Yet, despite the dire wolf's advantages in size and numbers, it disappeared along with many other large species at the end of the Pleistocene epoch. Most scientists believe that rapid climate change played a major role in this large scale extinction event, but it would be difficult to ignore the introduction of humans to the Americas as the two species often sought the same prey.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from the partial remains of a dire wolf found in Florida on private land.
In ancient Egyptian cosmology, the world began as dry land emerged from the primeval waters. The darkness of the world was filled with light, and there in the marsh the papyrus grew. From this creation myth, the humble papyrus went on to serve as the symbol of life in Egypt. It rivaled linen as a chief commercial export and evidence suggests this writing material was in use for over 5,000 years.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from a selection of fragmented papyri collected over many years by a German dealer of antiquities.
VIKING AXE (10th Century)
More than 1200 years ago the Vikings left the fjords of modern Scandinavia and set out to sea. Today, nearly every country in Europe has a story to tell of the Viking expansion and a complex history of their many societies is slowly being rediscovered.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from a set of Viking bearded axes dating to 900 CE. We worked closely with the blacksmiths of Baltimore Knife & Sword to prepare the material for inclusion.
SAMURAI SWORD (14th Century)
The Japanese sword is a symbol of unparalleled beauty and quality. Bound closely to the image of the samurai class, the blades are highly prized and honored by collectors all over the world. The history of these incredible weapons and the warriors who wielded them are intimately connected to the development of the Japanese nation and the culture of modern Japan.
The specimen in the Mini Museum is comprised of two parts. The first is from a Ko-tō period katana circa the mid-1300s. It is a single-forged blade attributed to the Yamato Senjuin School. The second piece is a late-Edo period Kamishimo, including a sleeveless jacket known as the Kataginu and the trousers known as the Hakama.
The blade was selected with the generous support of Pablo Kuntz. Pablo is the owner of Unique Japan, a respected dealer of Japanese swords worldwide. While lovely, the blade has a number of micro-fractures that made it unsuitable, and potentially dangerous, as a collectible. The Kamishimo was selected to compliment the sword and was acquired at auction.
VENICE (14th Century)
The City of Canals, the City of Bridges, the City of Masks... The city of Venice has been known by many names and ruled by many hands. Yet, despite its legendary history at the center of a long-lived republic, it is the ever-present Adriatic Sea which has defined the fortunes of Venice, and it is to those waters that the city may eventually return.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from an early 14th century paving brick uncovered in the Cannaregio sestiere during a recent renovation. The brick was acquired directly from the architectural firm performing the renovation. We are extremely grateful for the assistance of Mini Museum Backer N. Lugato in identifying and securing this specimen.
ROUGH OPAL (Australia)
Opal forms in areas where water comes in contact with sandstone and filters deep into the Earth, picking up more silica along the way. This silica-rich solution settles into cracks, natural fractures in the rock, or even into fossilized organic material. Under intense heat and pressure, most of the water evaporates leaving the silica behind.
The specimen in the Mini Museum is opalized fossil plant material from Lightning Ridge in NSW, Australia. Australia is the largest producer of opals in the world. The opal fields here date to the Cretaceous when Central Australia was home to an enormous inland sea, known to science as the Eromanga Basin.
FIRST TRANSATLANTIC CABLE
Ten years after Samuel F.B. Morse sent the first telegraph message in 1844, the world was hooked on the new form of rapid communication. Yet even with this breathtaking progress, overcoming the Atlantic Ocean seemed an impossible task. Nearly two thousand miles of open ocean separated the closest two points between Europe and North America, and the depth along the route often exceeded two miles. Spanning this enormous gap would require the will of a person of immense vision and grit, and perhaps even a touch of madness.
On August 4th, 1858, after already suffering one failed attempt to connect the line, entrepreneur Cyrus West Field and the USS Niagara reached Trinity Bay, Newfoundland, connecting the first Transatlantic Telegraph Cable. Within days, messages began flowing between the two continents at a rate never before imagined. The world had become smaller in what seemed like an instant.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from a section of the original Transatlantic cable carried aboard the USS Niagara. After the completion of the first line, the remaining cable was purchased by Charles Tiffany with the intent of selling souvenirs commemorating the linking of both continents. Stored for over 100 years, several cases of finished cable sections were located and later sold by the the Smithsonian Institution in the 1970s.
Inhospitable and inescapable, the legendary Federal Penitentiary on Alcatraz Island played host to some of the most notorious criminals of the 20th century. Originally conceived as a concentration program to manage the most difficult prisoners in the federal penal system, the isolated and harsh environment of "The Rock" became a symbol of cold, impersonal justice, earning the prison it's infamous nickname.
Today, Alcatraz Island is a National Park visited by over 1 million people each year. The island is also home to a rapidly growing population of nesting colonial seabirds, including cormorants, snowy egrets, and black-crowned night herons. The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from concrete salvaged by the National Park Service during restoration of the site.
WWII ENIGMA (Rotor)
In times of war, the struggle for information often means the difference between winning and losing. Yet few efforts to conceal and reveal information reached the scale or importance of the puzzle which surrounded the German Enigma during World War II.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from the remains of several ruined, military-grade Enigma rotors. Each individual specimen contains fragments from the key components of the rotor, including: the notched "thumbwheel", the alphabet ring, and the core of the rotor which contained the wiring and contacts that enabled the system to function.
FORDITE (Motor Agate)
The bright, jewel-like layers of Fordite are comprised of thousands of layers of automobile paint. Drop by drop, each layer represents a different vehicle as it passed through the paint booth in the factory. Heated to hundreds of degrees, the layers fused together to form one of the most beautiful and completely accidental man-made composites.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from the Ford Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycomo, Missouri. The plant opened in 1951 and since 1957 the 4,700,000-square-foot facility has been home to ten generations of F-Series Pickup Truck production, as well as many other vehicles.
THE BEATLES (Cavern Club)
Before The Beatles played for millions of viewers on The Ed Sullivan Show, the Lads from Liverpool put in thousands of hours in clubs and lounges across the UK, Germany, Sweden, and France. Yet few venues can be so closely associated with the earliest days of the Beatles as the original Cavern Club in Liverpool, England.
From 1961 to 1963, the Fab Four played 292 shows in the Cavern Club. The club was demolished in 1973, but the bricks were saved. In 1983, a selection of bricks were auctioned for charity and the remaining bricks were used in the rebuilding of the Cavern Club on the original site. The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from one of those original bricks, purchased at auction.
The SR-71 was built for speed and stealth. Setting records as the world's fastest manned aircraft, the SR-71 easily cruised at more than three times the speed of sound.
The specimen in the Mini Museum is a fragment of a "turkey feather" from SR-71 61-7972. It was purchased from Daniel Freeman, Supervisor and Chief of Metals Technology for the 9th Reconnaissance Wing I.
The turkey feathers are overlapping flaps which surrounded the exhaust of the SR-71. Opening and closing according to the pressure output of the afterburner, they are considered one of the hardest working parts of the aircraft. SR-71 61-7972 was retired in 1990 and is currently on display in the Smithsonian's Air & Space collection at the Udvar-Hazy Center just outside Washington, D.C. During the delivery flight from Los Angeles, the aircraft flew coast to coast in just 67 minutes.
PELÉ (Soccer ball)
Like many Brazilians, Edson Arantes do Nascimento has been known by many names. He was called "Dico" by his family and "Gasolina" because he was so fast, but the one name that really stuck was Pelé. The name Pelé has no actual meaning in Portuguese, but the life of the greatest soccer player of all time has been anything but meaningless.
Following the incredible early success of winning the 1958 World Cup, Pelé went on to score 1283 career goals and played on two more winning World Cup teams (1962, 1970). Those who met him on the field used words like "flawless" and "magical", sowing seeds for the legend that would lead to yet another nickname - "The King".
Since retiring from play, Pelé has travelled the world promoting soccer and serving as an inspiration for millions of people. His lasting legacy is one of peace and sportsmanship.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from a vintage leather football owned by Pelé and acquired by auction in London. This personal auction was the most lucrative sale of football memorabilia in history.
CHARLES & DIANA (Royal Wedding Cake)
The marriage of HRH Charles Windsor, Prince of Wales, and Lady Diana Spencer was an international sensation. Watched by an estimated 750,000,000 people around the world.
Yet what seemed to the world like a beautiful story would become much more complicated as the years passed until their divorce in 1996. Just one year later, on August 31st, 1997, Lady Diana died in a car crash while fleeing the paparazzi in Paris. On September 6th, 1997, more than 2,500,000,000 people watched the funeral held at Westminster Abbey. Diana was just 36 years-old.
The specimen in the Mini Museum is a piece of the royal wedding cake, a traditional fruit cake with cream cheese frosting. The layers of the official cake took 14 weeks to prepare including an identical twin held in emergency reserve. For display, each cake was sliced and placed into individual monogrammed boxes. These prepared slices were then placed into larger, hand-painted boxes and finished with sugar paste icing to form the decorated layers of the cake.
STEVE JOBS (Turtleneck)
Beginning life as the adopted son of working-class parents, Steve Jobs rose to the height of global business. His companies revolutionized several different industries and his countercultural vision reshaped much of the modern technological world.
The specimen in the Mini Museum is a swatch of fabric from a black mock turtleneck owned by Steve Jobs. One of the earliest examples of what would eventually become Steve's trademark style, this turtleneck was worn by Steve at the 1991 PC Forum gathering. The turtleneck was sold by his personal assistant and purchased at a public auction.
SPACE STATION MIR (Cosmonaut Food)
Often considered the world's first successful community in space, the space station Mir (Мир) operated in low earth orbit from February 20th, 1986 until final reentry on March 23rd, 2001.
The specimen in the Mini Museum comes from a selection of mission flown food prepared for the space station Mir. The menu includes items from both Roskosmos and NASA, including pork goulash, sausage, bread rolls, rice, tinned salmon, and hot cocoa. Each Mini Museum contains a "complete meal", with two dishes (carbohydrate and protein) along with a serving of hot cocoa.
Thank you so very much for taking the time to learn about the Third Edition of the Mini Museum! We're excited to continue the journey with all of you and look forward to your support!
Risks and challenges
This is our third 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 two projects, 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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