Hudson resident a guiding force at the Science Museum of Minnesota
Hudson resident Mike Day has powerful memories of his great aunt. She worked at a mystical place for many children, The Museum of Science and Industry, in Chicago. It was visits to this museum that shaped his future. Today, the Chicago native is the senior vice president of the Science Museum of Minnesota.
After graduating from the University of Illinois, College of Business with a finance degree, he applied for and was awarded a grant from the New York State Arts Council to study museum management.
“I went before the council to convince them I would be a good candidate,” said Day. “They had never placed anyone with business training.” They bought his argument and his career path was launched.
Instead of an internship in New York City, as Day had hoped for, he was sent to Rochester, N.Y. That move may have changed the course of his career. Because Eastman Kodak was based in Rochester, their museum was at the forefront of using media.
The Cleveland Board of Education recruited him after his internship.
“They had a new facility and museum for Cleveland school students,” said Day. “It was a remarkable organization.”
“I was recruited to Minnesota in 1978,” said Day. “The building was under construction and so was their first Omnitheater. I had the right education, training and work experience that lined up everything.”
It was the perfect match. The Science Museum of Minnesota found in Day a wonderful sense of curiosity, professional acumen in both finance and museum management and the desire to grow and expand the Omnitheater.
His exposure to media use while in Rochester set the stage for Day’s deep involvement with film production. The Omnitheater would be only the second in the world to be completed at that time. Day’s interest was strong from the beginning and it fired up after meeting film maker George Casey. Casey was the only person to film the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980. His short documentary was nominated for an Academy Award in 1981. After both men attended a conference in Japan, Casey invited Day to join him at the Sakurajima Volcano Observatory in South Japan.
“Sakurajima has been erupting since 1956,” said Day. “Major ash events occur one or two times a day.”
It wasn’t hard as the ash plume rose in front of them, for Casey to seduce Day to the idea of having a film crew chase volcanic events around the world.
When the project began in 1983 it was given a five year time line. However by 1988 they had a lot of footage but not what they needed to make a film. Day, the executive producer, Casey and their crews received a special present that year. On Christmas Day in 1988 Lonquimay volcano in Chile erupted.
“We were the only film crew to get there,” said Day. “From that point on our luck changed. We went on to capture major events in Hawaii, Indonesia and the San Francisco earthquake.”
The result of Day’s seven year journey chasing volcanos was the IMax film ‘”Ring of Fire” which was released in 1991.
“It is one of the most successful and popular films ever shown at the Science Museum of Minnesota,” said Day. It returns this week as one of the five films featured in the annual Omnifest.
“Last year we showed ‘Tornado Alley’,” said Day. “I got a call from George Casey’s son Sean who said I have great footage and he wanted to know if I was interested in doing something with it.” Day signed on as the executive producer.
“Sean filmed it from a custom-made 15,000 pound vehicle designed to be hit by a tornado,” said Day. “Tornado Alley” made its debut in 2011 at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.
The very same museum where Mike Day, recalls his great aunt, with her rouged face and white gloves, handing him a ticket to his favorite place in the museum, the Coal Mine Ride.
Day, as the senior vice president of the Science Museum of Minnesota wears many hats. He is also responsible for bringing the Body Worlds in 2006, the Pompeii exhibit in 2007, Titanic in 2009, the Dead Sea Scrolls in 2010 and the King Tut exhibition in 2011.
Day moved to Hudson in 2001.
Omnifest 2014, the Science Museum of Minnesota’s popular annual giant-screen film festival opens Jan. 9 and runs through Feb. 28. It will feature five giant-screen films: “Great White Shark,” “Stomp’s World Beat,” “Ring of Fire,” “Blue Planet” and “To the Limit.”
Omnifest films will run in rotation, Tuesday through Sunday:
“Great White Shark”: 10 a.m. (Saturday and Sunday only), 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. (Thursday-Saturday only)
“Stomp’s World Beat”: 11 a.m. (Saturday and Sunday only), 4 and 9 p.m. (Thursday-Saturday only)
“Ring of Fire”: Noon (Saturday and Sunday only), and 5 p.m. (Thursday-Saturday only)
“Blue Planet”: 1 p.m. (Saturday and Sunday only), and 6 p.m. (Thursday-Saturday only)
“To the Limit”: 2 & 7 p.m. (Thursday-Saturday only)
For more information on this year’s Omnifest line-up, visit www.smm.org/omnifest.
“Omnifest is one of the most popular things we do every year,” said Day. “It is a lot of fun and a great winter getaway.”