Think of it as a behind-the-scenes tour of Willy Wonka’s factory with an extremely knowledgeable guide by your side.
The worlds of natural history and science merge in the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science’s new exhibit, Chocolate: The Exhibition. Opened last Saturday with a special Family Night event, the traveling exhibition is set up near the Old Town until March next year, giving chocolate junkies a chance to sample the backstory of the long journey. chocolate to become the world’s favorite sweet snack.
The two-story exhibit begins at the bottom, taking museum visitors into a faux South American jungle to trace the botany behind the cocoa tree, whose bitter seeds have been used for centuries by indigenous peoples. Vibrant exhibits show how ancient Mayan and Aztec cultures used the seeds for a variety of uses, from medicine to religion. The methods of harvesting the seeds and their use as a primary form of trade are all explored.
“Many of us love chocolate, but few know the origins of candy,” says Gary Romero, acting executive director of NMMNHS. “Chocolate: The Exhibition offers visitors of all ages a unique opportunity to learn about the history of chocolate and its impact on cultures around the world.”
After exploring the New World, guests are invited to go upstairs to the museum to follow cocoa on its long journey to Europe where, roasted and combined with sugar, it becomes what we all know and yearn for. as modern chocolate. The chocolate craze during the industrial revolution is detailed; As the tale continues into the 20th century, guests get a little insight into how some of the foodstuff’s most familiar trappings – from chocolate milk powder to Valentine’s Day hearts stuffed with sweets – began.
“Our museum team explores the vast world of chocolate, including topics ranging from the history of chocolate to the use of chocolate as currency,” says Deb Novak*, director of education at NMMNHS. “The programming will engage our scientific senses by teaching about the different types of chocolate, how they were used, and how, historically, chocolate was consumed as a drink before it was a bar.”
Over the nine-month exhibition, visitors will have the opportunity to watch expert chocolatiers share their chocolate curiosities, explore the chemistry of chocolate, and even cast chocolate fossils. The museum is planning an extensive series of educational chocolate offerings throughout the summer and fall. Go to the museum’s website (nmnaturalhistory.org) for the latest information on adult nights, an engaging chocolate talk series, extra family days, exhibit demonstrations, hands-on classes, summer camp days and more.
Chocolate Admission: The exhibit is included with a regular museum exhibit ticket. The museum, located at 1801 Mountain Rd. NW, is open Wednesday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
*Full disclosure: Deb Novak and Devin O’Leary are married.