About this project
The successful funding of my Kickstarter campaign has allowed me to pursue my life long dream of bringing the mini museum to the world.
I want to thank all of the backers and the entire Kickstarter community. I also want to thank my family and friends. Without their love and continued support, this project could not become a reality. I am so grateful.
I'd also like to welcome you to visit minimuseum.com where you can sign up for special email updates. Thank you so very much!
Hello, my name is Hans Fex.
The mini museum is a portable collection of curiosities where every item is authentic, iconic and labeled. It's been carefully designed to take you on a journey of learning and exploration. The idea is simple. For the past 35 years I have collected amazing specimens specifically for this project. I then carefully break those specimens down into smaller pieces, embed them in acrylic, and you end up with an epic museum in a manageable space. Each mini museum is a handcrafted, individually numbered limited edition. And If you consider the age of some of these specimens – it's been billions of years in the making. The majority of these specimens were acquired directly from contacting specialists recommended to me by museum curators, research scientists and university historians.
The collection starts with some of the oldest matter ever collected in the known Universe - matter collected from carbonaceous chondrites. These meteorites contain matter that is over 4 billion years old. Other meteors include some that have skimmed off the surface of Mars or the moon and then landed on Earth - each of those containing matter from those celestial bodies.
What's next? Specimens from the strelly pool stromatolites that contain the earliest evidence of life on Earth. Also, a piece of a palm tree from Antarctica - yes Antarctica. Everybody loves dinosaurs and the mini museum contains plenty of unique specimens from hundreds of millions of years ago including favorites like the T-Rex and Triceratops. Even dinosaur poop.
As we migrate from the beginning of the Universe to early life on Earth, we discover Homo Sapiens. Naturally, the Mini Museum also has many amazing and rare specimens documenting human history and culture. Mummy wrap, rocks from Mt. Everest, Trinitite, coal from Titanic,and even a piece of the Apollo 11 command module to name just a few.
It's space and time in the palm of your hand. There is nothing else quite like it. There are many more specimens for you to discover so make sure to check out the full list below.
The Universe is amazing. I really wanted to remind people of that with this collection. How awesome would it be to own a group of rare meteorites, dinosaur fossils and relics of some of the most talked about places and events in human history? 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. Great for folks aged 7 to 122 and completely safe and non toxic.
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 that has everything. (We all know some of those people. Not one of them has anything like this!)
The Universe is amazing and realizing this collection has been one of the biggest accomplishments of my life.
Each mini museum is individually numbered and very carefully handcrafted to display every specimen beautifully. The chart below outlines the different specimens that come with each version of the mini museum.
There are three sizes of the mini museum:
- Small: 11 specimens (Approx. 2" wide x 3" tall x 1" thick)
- Medium: 22 specimens (Approx. 3" wide x 4.5" tall x 1" thick)
- Large: 33 specimens (Approx. 4" wide x 5" tall x 1" thick)
Every acrylic mini museum purchase includes:
- Detailed electronic companion booklet with photographs and information about all available specimen provenance. Includes a few awesome adventure stories I had while collecting specimens.
- Custom microfiber pouch designed specifically for each size.
* IMPORTANT: The production process lends itself to small variations. For example, there might be a few tiny air bubbles or a specimen may be shaped differently than the images on this page. There may also be an imperfect edge or a rounded corner. Such variations highlight the artisanal nature of the project, as each mini museum is made by hand and absolutely unique. Keep an eye on Project Updates for details as they are made available.
Stretch Goals, Add-Ons, Booklets, and More!
Because of the amazing support of the project backers, each mini museum is getting an upgrade from polyurethane resin to acrylic. In addition, each acrylic mini museum will also come with a custom-made microfiber pouch!
Below are images for the add-on printed book and the t-shirt choices available for the project. Please see the project updates for the latest information
Many things inspired me but it really started with my father. He was a research scientist and a Director at the National Institutes of Health. Growing up, we had a subscription to every great science magazine - and living near Washington DC we visited the Smithsonian museums and saw dinosaur bones, meteorites and rockets almost every weekend. My father kept an amazing collection of artifacts at his laboratory office and also at home.
In 1977, the historic year of Star Wars and the Atari 2600, my father had returned from Malta with some artifacts that he had embedded into epoxy resin. I had never seen this done before and It was beautiful.
Then, all at once, I saw it - my first product idea. The mini museum. A grand collection within a manageable space. I was seven years old.
Several times throughout the next year I would discuss the project with my father and with his friends. These were researchers who had won Nobel Prizes and been knighted for their scientific accomplishments. They helped me refine the list to about 20 things we all agreed we'd like to have on our desks or in our pockets and they recommended ways of acquiring each of them - we even got on the phone and started calling museum curators for recommended sources.
I’ve collected these specimens from across the world from various sources recommended by museum curators, research scientists and university historians.
I am a professional product designer and was recently part of Geeklabs, the custom product design and manufacturing division of online retailer ThinkGeek. I've been imagining and building products most of my life.
I’ve spent the last year cataloging my collection, doing research, and experimenting with dozens of production and manufacturing techniques to make The mini museum a reality and I’m finally ready to share it with you. I’ve never been more passionate about a project in my entire life.
After a lifetime of collecting, I own all the specimens. I also have the skills to craft the mini museum as casting is one of my specialties. But to bring the mini museum to the world, I need your support.
Your support will go towards getting other needed production materials as well as manufacturing and safety equipment. If you give me the chance to go into full manufacturing, I’ll be sending you updates with videos of the production to keep you well-informed and super-excited about your very own, very carefully made and individually numbered mini museum.
Thank you very much for your consideration and support. Below you will find the details about each of the specimens found in the mini museum. The images included here were taken from the actual specimens in my collection. Well, except for Ricardo Montalbán.
OLDEST MATTER EVER COLLECTED (c. 4,568,200,000 years old)
We might call this item the stuff that the universe is made of. After all, Carbonaceous Chondrites are the oldest matter humans have collected so far!
Carbonaceous Chondrites comprise a class of meteorites containing the earliest, most primitive matter ever found. This particular specimen is a mixed sampling of several meteorites, containing pre-solar nebular grains, amino acids, and other extraterrestrial matter not otherwise found on earth.
LUNAR ROCK (Meteorite from the Moon)
When asteroids or meteoroids impact the moon, bits of material are ejected into space. They often spend millions of years orbiting in space until finally landing on earth, when they become known as lunar meteorites. Currently, the Meteoritical Society only recognizes 69 meteorites as officially "lunar" or containing rocks from the moon.
Our lunar meteorites were supplied by Mohamed Sbai, Moritz Karl, and Adam Hupe. Moritz, Mohamed and Adam are full time meteorite hunters and suppliers, and they are among the most famous.
MARTIAN ROCK (Meteorite from Mars)
Martian rocks arrive on earth as a result of ancient asteroid and comet strikes on our red solar neighbor. The impact of something several kilometers in diameter is so powerful that it drives all manner of material into the atmosphere and even into space. So far, we've found roughly 240 lb or 108 kg of Martian rocks here on earth.
The Chelyabinsk meteorite entered our atmosphere at approximately 60 times the speed of sound. It created an enormous fireball that lit up the morning sky before exploding with the force of 30 Hiroshima bombs. The event was so powerful it created a dust belt in the stratosphere that circled the entire planet and lingered for months.
Your authentic Chelyabinsk meteorite fragment was gathered within 24 hours after it fell from the sky. They were not gathered by scientists or meteorite experts. They were gathered by local Chelyabinsk residents who were at home when the event took place and simply went out to their snow-covered yard and started collecting by looking for holes in the snow.
ALLEGED COW KILLER (Meteorite)
On October 15th, 1972 in Trujillo, Venezuela, a meteor entered our atmosphere and killed a cow. Yes, it struck a cow and nearly cut it in half!
The owner of the farm, a physician by the name of Argimiro Gonzalez, wasn't particularly concerned or surprised. He rationalized that this sort of thing must happen from time to time and he ended up using the meteor fragment as a doorstop.
Many years later an astronomer, Dr. Ignacio Ferrin, heard about the story and approached the heirs of Dr. Gonzalez. After verifying the story with several witnesses, Dr. Ferrin purchased the Valera meteorite which has the distinction of being one of the only documented fatal meteorite impacts.
EARLIEST LIFE (c. 3,430,000,000 year old fossil)
As the final remains of something that lived approximately three billion four hundred thousand years ago this little fossil is hugely inspiring.
I have been collecting the oldest known stromatolites for many years. Current evidence indicates that the Pilbara Strelley Pool stromatolites in Australia contain the earliest fossilized cellular life. These are the stromatolites included in your mini museum.
PALM TREE FROM ANTARCTICA
During the early Eocene period (55 million years ago), Antarctica was home to a very different world. Instead of ice, Antarctica had a sub-tropical climate, inland forests thick with beech trees and conifers, and coastal areas lined with palm trees!
The mini museum includes a sample gathered from the coal bearing band in Mac. Robertson Land by one of the last Soviet research expeditions.
DINOSAUR EGG (Shell)
This particular specimen is from a Titanosaur which is a type of Sauropod. These eggs were collected from nesting grounds in Patagonia during one of the earliest research expeditions. They also discovered fossilized embryos in these nesting grounds. Titanosaurs existed 70 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period.
Sauropods were herbivores with long necks, small heads and massive bodies. Most had very long tails as well to balance their enormous bodies and some even had body armor!
Acquired from Raimund Albersdörfer and Henry Galiano of Dinosauria International, the vertebrae sample in the mini museum comes from an incomplete set of sauropod bones from the Dana Quarry in the village of Ten Sleep at the western edge of the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming.
DUCKBILLED DINOSAUR (Misc. bone)
The Hadrosaur is one of the most easily recognizable species of dinosaur due to its iconic duck-billed head. But did you know this "beak" housed hundreds of teeth? Yes, in fact some species had up to 1400!
The mini museum contains a sample found in a mass grave of Hadrosaurs that yielded many well-preserved, complete skeletons.
TRICERATOPS (Brow horn)
Triceratops is perhaps one of the most recognizable dinosaurs because of it's trademark bony frill and three horns. What's interesting about this iconic dinosaur is that its head was nearly 1/3 the size of its entire body!
The mini museum contains a sample from a Triceratops brow horn. The horn was found along with several other fragments of its skull including pieces of the frill and the nose horn. Watch the video above to see the classic blood canals on this horn.
Though Tyrannosaurus rex is no longer thought of as the biggest predator that ever lived, this theropod still remains one of the most popular and best recognized of all dinosaurs.
The mini museum sample comes from a tooth which has been shed, probably while feeding. Collected on private ranch land, this excellently preserved tooth exhibits fine serrations and enamel preservation.
INSECT IN AMBER (c. 40-60,000,000 years old)
Amber is fossilized tree resin, and every once in awhile a drop of resin would catch an insect by surprise and trap it for all time. It's been used in jewelry making since the Neolithic Period. No one has yet used blood from mosquitos insects trapped in amber to make dinosaurs but in 2013 scientists did discover what could be dinosaur feathers trapped in amber!
PTEROSAUR (Wing bone)
When we think about flying dinosaurs, we often call them "pterodactyls". However, Pterodactyls are really a sub family of Pterosaurs and Pterosaurs are not even true dinosaurs at all! What we can be sure of though is that Pterosaurs are the earliest known vertebrates to have evolved the power of flight.
The mini museum sample comes from a Pterosaur wing bone. The wings of a Pterosaur were very complex structures designed for active flight. Recent studies suggest that the wings in larger species contained air sacs that worked as part of the animal's respiratory system.
K-Pg BOUNDARY (Mass extinction event)
The K-Pg Boundary Layer is a thin sedimentary layer found all over the entire earth that marks the end of the Cretaceous period and the beginning of the Paleogene Period. It's also known more commonly as the end of the age of the non-avian dinosaurs.
The mini museum sample is a compilation of specimens collected from various locations including USA, Canada and Denmark. This material contains high concentrations of iridium which is abundantly found in comets and asteroids - but not commonly found in such concentrations on Earth.
The Woolly Mammoth is just one species of the genus Mammoth or Mammuthus, but it is easily the best known of its kind. Mammoths are assumed to have completely disappeared around 10,000 years ago, perhaps as a result of human predation. Today, we tend to find Wooly Mammoths beneath the ice in the extreme north. In fact, they're rather abundant and so well-preserved that liquid blood and DNA have been recovered from specimens that perished 39,000 years ago.
EGYPTIAN MUMMY WRAP (c. 350 BCE)
Several ancient cultures mummified their dead using drying techniques, chemicals, or simply placing in bodies in cold climates. The process was often part of an elaborate ritual in which the living honored the dead through preservation of the body.
The mini museum sample of Egyptian mummy wrap is made from linen and a bituminous embalming substance. Bitumen was often brought from the Dead Sea and used as a glue or sealant in baskets and used to preserve Egyptians and it helped to attach the first layer(s) of linen wrap to the dead body.
Human beings have been building bridges across the River Thames for nearly 2000 years. The first "London Bridge" was a route built by the Romans, but over the course of so many years the bridge has been destroyed and rebuilt many times.
The mini museum sample comes from the London Bridge of the 19th century. The bridge was completed in 1831 and by 1896 it was the busiest place in London, with roughly 10,000 people crossing every hour. It was sold in 1968, dismantled and moved to Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Left over fragments from the bridge were eventually put up for sale and have found their way to the mini museum.
On August 13th, 1961, the German Democratic Republic (GDR) began the construction of a massive wall to separate themselves from the rest of Germany, creating east and west territories. The Wall was officially known as the "Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart", though really the purpose of the structure was to keep East German citizens from defecting to the West.
The Wall stood until November 9th, 1989. When the government announced that all GDR citizens could visit West Germany, thousands of East Germans massed at the Wall. Many climbed the wall to join West Berliners in celebration till eventually sledgehammers were used to knock holes in the wall. Less than a year later, Germany was reunified.
The mini museum sample was personally collected by Hans during a trip to the former East Germany. It represents not only oppression, but the strength of the human spirit to endure against all odds and emerge triumphant.
RAW GOLD NUGGET
What would you do if you had all the gold in the world? Well, for starters, you'd have to get it first which would be no easy feat since most it is way down in the molten core of the planet.
So where did all of this gold on the surface come from? Outer space mostly, delivered by a massive meteor bombardment 3.9 billion years ago. And really, it's not so much. Just 174,100 tonnes in all. Still, because gold is so malleable and dense you could make a sheet of gold that covers 1/3 of the earth's surface or you could forge a single cube that measures 21 meters per side (75' ft).
ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S HOUSE (Foundation brick)
From the outset of his Presidency, Abraham Lincoln presided over a nation wracked by Civil War, which ultimately hinged on the question of Slavery. It was the turning point for a young nation and a people who had come so far in such a short period of time. There were few better equipped to lead the nation through such turmoil.
President Lincoln was assassinated in office while attending a play at Ford's Theater in Washington, DC. His assassin was John Wilkes Booth, a well-known actor of the time and Confederate spy. The President's death sealed his memory as a national martyr and in the years since his legend has grown. He is often considered the greatest of all American Presidents.
The mini museum sample comes from a collection of foundation bricks taken from Abraham Lincoln's house.
In mid 1970s, Chrysler was set to introduce a smaller model of luxury car, called the Cordoba, in response to the oil crisis of the time. Corinthian Leather was included in the Cordoba and a marketing campaign was designed around a charismatic spokesperson named Ricardo Montalbán.
There was nothing particularly special about Corinthian Leather. It was standard upholstery leather produced outside of Newark, New Jersey. Through the power of marketing and advertising this common product obtained a legendary status of elegance. Think about how.
SAND FROM WAIKIKI
To most people, the name Waikīkī evokes an idyllic image of a tropical paradise. The gentle curve of a pristine beach backed by lush palms and topped by the volcanic crest of Diamond Head. But did you know that Waikīkī was once a wetland? In fact, the name Waikīkī means 'spouting fresh water' in the Hawaiian language, and until the construction of the Ala Wai Canal in 1928 this famous beach was separated from the rest of the island by a series of swamps and marshes fed by streams and springs from Oahu's interior.
After dredging the marshes, Waikīkī suffered the same problems with erosion found in regions where coastal wetlands have been disturbed. For decades, sand was imported from Manhattan Beach, California and yet the coastline has continued to give way to the sea.
The mini museum sample was collected in the 1950s near the Royal Hawaiian resort. In those days, the Royal Hawaiian was one of the tallest building along the coast. Today the historic hotel is dwarfed by the modern skyline of Honolulu.
DRACULA SOIL (Vlad III's Castle, Transylvanian Alps)
Vlad "The Impaler" Tepes, Prince of Wallachia and member of the house of Drăculești was famous even before Bram Stoker used him as his model for the vampiric Count Dracula. During the 13th century, Prince Vlad was a member of the Order of the Dragon and tasked with protecting Christianity in Eastern Europe from the advance of the Ottoman Empire. He was known for his heroic exploits in battle and cunning guerilla warfare tactics against vastly superior forces. Vlad was also known for his extreme cruelty, impaling captured Turks by the thousands and slaughtering women and children.
The mini museum sample was collected personally by Hans from within the crumbling walls of Vlad's castle in Romania.
TUNGUSKA EVENT (Surviving tree)
On June 30th, 1908, something exploded in the skies over the Tunguska River in Siberia. The force of the explosion was so powerful that roughly 80 million trees were flattened in an area of 830 square miles (2,150 sq km). It is estimated that the blast was up to 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
While many theories exist about the nature of the explosion, it is generally believed that an asteroid or comet entered the atmosphere and exploded before striking the planet. This theory is similar to the recent event in Chelyabinsk, though many times greater.
The mini museum sample comes from a fir tree found at the site. Hans obtained samples from members of a scientific expedition that visited the area of the Tunguska event in 2008 and 2009.
TITANIC (Coal from wreck)
The R.M.S. Titanic was a legendary ship of epic proportions. As such, it required enormous power which was supplied by steam generated by gigantic boilers in the bowels of the ship. The boilers were fed through 162 fireboxes, or furnaces, each of which were stoked manually by a team of 150 firemen.
On a normal crossing, the boilers would consume 600 tons of coal per day. These boilers fueled the triple-screw propulsion system, delivering 50,000 horsepower to the massive ship. They also fueled the massive dynamos on board that supplied 16,000 amps of electricity needed by all areas of the ship.
The mini museum contains a sample of coal fuel recovered from the Titanic.
TRINITITE (First nuclear bomb test)
July 16, 1945, near Alamogordo, New Mexico, the United States Army detonated the first nuclear device in history. Codenamed Trinity, this full-scale nuclear test was authorized by Robert Oppenheimer and Major General Leslie Groves as part of the Manhattan Project.
During the explosion, arkosic sand was swept into the mushroom cloud and liquified. It rained down into the crater, forming a layer of glass referred to as Trinitite. It is mildly radioactive, but completely safe to handle.
MT. EVEREST (Rock, Ladder Rung)
On May 29th, 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay became the first two people to reach the summit of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. In Tibet, Everest is called Chomolungma, which means mother goddess of the universe.
The ladder rung comes from a ladder that was removed from the Khumbu Icefall at the slope of Mt. Everest.
The medium mini museum contains a fragment of a ladder rung while the large mini museum contains a sample of the mountain itself. Together these specimens represent both the ever-changing nature of our planet and the extremes of both mental and physical human endurance.
APOLLO 11 COMMAND MODULE FOIL (First manned lunar landing)
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to land on the moon. This was the 11th flight of the Apollo program and the success was broadcast live to the entire world.
The mini museum sample was obtained directly from astronaut Buzz Aldrin during an auction in 2007.
"This foil played the critical role of reflecting the sun's intense heat away from the Apollo 11 Command Module as it re-entered Earth's atmosphere. Due to its fragile nature, most of it burnt off the ship but small pieces survived and were salvaged. Just think, this actually flew to the moon and back as part of the legendary Apollo 11 Spacecraft. A great memento from one of Mankind's 'Giant Leaps.'" -- Quoted from Buzz Aldrin's Letter of Authenticity
The human skull is made up of 44 separate bony elements. When we are born, these bony elements are separated by connective tissue called "fontanels". The fontanels are necessary for birth and also help accommodate future growth. Eventually, the bony bits grow together, fusing to the form the skull.
The human brain is a hungry beast. It consumes up to 20% of the energy used by the human body, relying primarily on glucose as an energy source. And yet, the brain only represents 2% of our body mass. Still while this seems like a lot, we also have to consider that the brain performs so many functions at once. It regulates the functions of our entire body for one, even when we are sleeping. It also serves as storage for all of our memories.
Our understanding of the brain has advanced dramatically over the last few decades.
The mini museum contains a sample of a plastinated human brain. It comes from a laboratory in Russia which supplies plastinated humans for various exhibits worldwide.
Once again, thank you so very much for spending time with my dream project. I hope you had fun!
Risks and challenges
As an experienced product designer with years of experience, I know that every project comes with risks.
It is possible that specimens could be destroyed in some sort of cataclysmic disaster. After all, it happened to the dinosaurs. However, since I already own all of the specimens, there is little risk associated with lack of inventory. I've reduced this risk further by limiting the number of mini museums to the available material for production.
I do successful professional casting work several times a year. I also have a lifetime of experience handling delicate specimens such as those found in the mini museum. So, there very few risks in terms of skill.
The real risk of the mini museum project comes during the process of manufacturing at scale. I will be making each mini museum by hand and your support will allow me to purchase the right equipment and supplies to safely manufacture in large quantities. Still, things can and will happen during this process. I feel confident that with my experience I can manage this risk, but it is still there.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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