Helena's Hands-on Museum

skateboarder at ExplorationWorks, Helena, Mont.

A tippy skateboard challenges a rider.

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Open the doors to the ExplorationWorks in Helena, Mont., and all is cacophony. Toddlers wave their hands over a virtual pond and giggle as virtual fish scatter. A skeleton rides a skateboard. A laser harp sounds a musical scale. A see-through mannequin named Tami explains the roles of her heart, liver, and breasts—part of a temporary exhibit, called the Healer Within, about the body’s self-repair systems.

This chaos of experimentation is the idea behind the new 13,500-square-foot museum of science and culture. Everything can be touched here, from a real sheep’s eye to a moving skateboard kids try to ride as it tips from side to side. Exhibits change often. (Many will be different when you visit.) Volunteers have worked since 2000, raising $3 million, to launch this interactive learning center for a broad range of ages. The museum opened on November 1 in the Great Northern Town Center of Highway 12 next to the famed Helena carousel.

On February 1, a show on wind power and aerodynamics debuts. Visitors can explore a cloud chamber and a simulated hang glider. (406) 457-1800, www.explorationworks.org.

Photography by Eliza Wiley

This article was first published in January 2008. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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