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Exhibit chronicles Narnia ; Science Museum opens new display inspired by movies, C.S. Lewis books

To enter the newest exhibit at the Buffalo Museum of Science, you must first open the wooden door and step through the wardrobe, of course.

Once you walk past the fur coats lining either side of it, you step into "The Chronicles of Narnia," a traveling exhibit inspired by recent movies, which were, in turn, inspired by the series of books by C.S. Lewis.

A mix of replicas and authentic pieces from two movies populates the exhibit, with many of the displays seeking to connect science to what you see on the big screen.

"The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and "Prince Caspian" follow the four Pevensie children -- Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy -- as they encounter a magical world they discover inside a wardrobe. A third movie, "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader," is in theaters now.

At the Science Museum, a wooden catapult gives young visitors the chance to pull the cord themselves and launch large "stones" into a net -- just like the warriors in the movies' battle scenes -- giving new meaning to an old physics lesson.

The wow factor drew many kids to that part of the room Monday, the exhibit's opening day in Buffalo -- although the loud thud from the hefty machine caught more than one youngster off guard.

As his big sister Lior, 7, prepared to launch, 6-year-old Calum Crisafulli stood near the net, excited and a little bit nervous about the ammunition headed his way.

"I hope it doesn't hit me," he said.

Like some others Monday, the Crisafullis, students at Allegany-Limestone, took advantage of an unexpected day off from school to take in the new exhibit. Their dad, Nolan, said his children have been enjoying hearing the books read aloud to them, carrying on a family tradition.

"My mother read all of these to us when we were probably the same age," he said.

Father and children alike were excited to see a replica of the White Witch's icy throne. Visitors can sit on the throne and -- literally -- feel the chill seep through their skin. Nearby, they learn about human efforts to control the weather and about the effects of climate change.

Another highlight for Lior and Calum came when they had a chance to try to lift actual swords and imagine what it would be like to lug one of them into battle, just like Peter did in the movies.

In another part of the exhibit, 3-year-old Ava Courtney and her father, Tim, learned firsthand how arches were built out of stone hundreds of years ago. They carefully placed vinyl-covered foam stones over an arch-shaped wooden framework, capping it off with the keystone.

"Now we slide this out," Tim told his daughter, gently pulling the framework out.

And voila: An arch was born, just tall enough for Ava to walk under.

Like most of the displays, the arch-building exercise is accompanied by a short video, featuring movie clips as well as narratives from actors and crew members.

They offer a variety of trivia, often tying history, science or geography tidbits into behind-the-scenes insights about the movies. A sampling: how they filmed Tumnus, who is half-man and half-goat; what sort of animal hair is used to make Trumpkin's red beard; and which faraway locales served as backdrops.

Visitors also get to see more than 50 costumes and props from the movies, including swords and shields bearing nicks from the battle scenes; armor worn by Peter, King Miraz and Prince Caspian; and school uniforms and everyday attire worn by the Pevensie children.

"It's neat to see the actual artifacts from the movie -- that's part of the draw," said Louise Stiegler, gallery guide at the museum.

The exhibit rolled into town a couple of weeks earlier than scheduled, enabling the museum to move the opening date up to Monday.

Visitors pay an additional $2 on top of museum admission to get a time-stamped ticket for the Narnia exhibit, which will be on display through May 8. During that time, the museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday through Thursday and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays. This Friday, though, the museum will close to the public at 4 p.m. for a members-only reception.

e-mail: mpasciak@buffnews.com

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