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Focusing on West Michigan's culture, history, and environment, the Public Museum's permanent exhibits feature both interactive regional humanities and natural science themes.
Visitors to Van Andel Museum Center can also enjoy the fully restored 1928 Spillman carousel and viewing the breath-taking 76-foot whale skeleton that is suspended above the museum's 3- story Galleria.
In addition, the restored 1888 Grand Rapids City Hall tower clock is on display, among a number of other permanent exhibits.
The largest of the Public Museum's exhibitions is "The Furniture City." This tribute to the craftsmanship of Grand Rapids furniture designers takes you on a tour of time, starting in the early 1800s when the Grand Rapids area was first settled. A walk through the exhibition shows changing trends in furniture through displays containing over 120 pieces of Grand Rapids made furniture. In addition, a fully functional 35-ton 1905 Corliss-type steam engine with an 18-foot flywheel is on display. The exhibition ends with present-day designs, leaving the visitor to decide what the future holds.
Another major exhibition is "Anishinabek: The People of this Place," which tells the story of Native Americans of the region, and includes hundreds of beautiful items from their culture. Interactive videos through the exhibition feature Native American stories, elders speaking of their fears and hopes for the future of their people, and computer stations demonstrate the language spoken by Native Americans of the region. Items on display include beadwork, full pow-wow regalia and items showing common stereotypes of Native American people.
Other attractions at Van Andel Museum Center include Roger B. Chaffee Planetarium, which offers spectacular sky shows and laser light shows in its state-of-the-art, 145 seat Digistar theater. A natural history exhibition entitled "Habitats" shows the diverse story of the area's natural environment, including many local plants and animals. The exhibition "Grand Rapids 1890s" is a re-creation of life in late 19th century Grand Rapids, with thousands of items from that era.