Back in the days before Google and Wikipedia, if you wanted to find out something about your world, you went to the local natural history museum, where explorers from around the world displayed random oddities in glass cases. The Fairbanks Museum (1302 Main St., 802/748-2372, www.fairbanksmuseum.org , 9 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat. and 1–5 p.m. Sun. Apr.–Oct.; closed Mon. Nov.–Mar.; planetarium shows 11 a.m. Mon.–Fri. and 1:30 p.m. daily July–Aug., 1:30 p.m. Sat.–Sun. Sept.–June) is a delicious throwback to that era, with a menagerie of colorful stuffed parrots, menacing polar bears, Egyptian mummies, and Japanese fans displayed in crowded glass cases in a turreted Victorian exhibition hall.
The Fairbanks Museum was founded in 1891 by Franklin Fairbanks, a philanthropist who himself made careful daily observations of weather and atmospheric conditions. The museum now carries on his work with a weather gallery, home to the public radio program “Eye on the Sky,” which broadcasts weather information and lore to over 10 million listeners daily.
Then there is the planetarium, one of only a few in New England, whose regular tours of the heavens have been eliciting gasps from crane-necked visitors for decades.