I am sitting here on a Sunday afternoon (this past weekend) trying to avoid moving since it is about a million degrees outside. New York City has been under a tremendous heat wave where the humidity plus the temperature makes it feel literally over one hundred degrees. Even inside I am sweating and I am not even moving. I have the AC and fan blowing right on me.
In the self-serving interest to pursue coolness (and not moving) I am watching Jurassic World (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2015/06/for-my-return-to-park-jurassic-world.html) for the millionth time. For someone who wouldn’t normally be into this type of movie, I happen to really, really love it. I love the detail, the morality of the plot line and of course the dinosaurs.
I have been around children all of my life and one of the things they all have in common is the love of dinosaurs. I don’t know where that comes from. Long before they are learning about fossils in school they are fascinated with these methodical creatures. Over the last few years my admiration for these long gone animals has surely grown as well.
For me it all begins with a trip to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in my hometown (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2012/06/for-all-things-natural-and-historic.html). It was my first connection to dinosaurs and one that still thrills. A perfect example is the brand new headlining exhibit that opened January of this year (and will remain here until January 1, 2020). I had been counting down the days until I could revisit the museum to see in person what I had been reading all about.
This discovery occurred in Argentina by a farmer living in the area who contacted a graduate student working nearby. Subsequently AMNH got involved. The area had many types of animals that need to be researched further. This titanosaur and its group of fellow dinosaurs weighed in around seventy tons, with this one standing nineteen feet high and stretching out one hundred twenty two feet long! That means it doesn’t fit all in one room!! Half of the body is in one, with the extremely long neck and head entered the following room. Standing beside it leaves you awe struck in disbelief.
Though this dinosaur is not part of a class that has been named and identified previously, there are many scientists learning about it now.
When the titanosaur opened to the public there was much fanfare. It was all New Yorkers in the know seemed to be talking and reading about.
This description of the first reveal amuses me to no end:
“This is the biggest thing happening in New York right now,” one reporter whispered. “I’m really surprised the Mayor isn’t here.” Countdown commenced. The crowd chanted along. The curtain fell. A toothy, grinning titanosaur appeared, poking its skull out through the entrance of its cavernous new home. The beast seemed to be blinking in the dazzle of flashes. Jack Nicholson in “The Shining” (“He-e-e-re’s Johnny!”) came to mind.”
Oh to have been there not knowing what you would see when the treasure’s curtain was dropped. It is certainly the most exciting thing to happen at in AMNH in my lifetime, which is why I had to get there. I was aching to see the newest, oldest kid on the block.
So when I arrived back at AMNH naturally this was where I headed first. I took a brief look at the dinosaurs that grace the lobby because they still fascinate me but then I was off in a rush to the fourth floor. I wandered through the standard exhibits seeing some old faces and as I meandered around I found what I was looking for by surprise. The sheer size of the titanosaur beckons before you enter the room. Even though I knew it was enormous I didn’t expect to be so overwhelmed by it. Impressive isn’t the right word to describe it but I am not sure there are words fit for this sight. I wish he had a name it would make it so much easier to discuss.
The real bones are not mounted because of their weight; you wouldn’t know that you are looking at their casts. Some of the smaller (smaller by comparison) original material is on display in the room in a glass case. The room is dark and besides the glass case there isn’t much else there. Some seats are available to watch the movie playing that explains how this dinosaur was found.
Try as I might I couldn’t find a way to fit his whole body, head included, in a shot. I don’t think anything really can capture what it feels like to look up and around.
AMNH seemed to have dinosaurs on the brain. The second dinosaur themed exhibit is called “Dinosaurs Among Us” which explores the connection between birds and dinosaurs throughout evolution. This was my next stop after I stood and stared at the titanosaur for a good long while. This I found less interesting although some of the animals displayed looked quite scary. For me this was a sight I glanced at as I kept moving around the floor. No need to stop and read each individual description.
For me the AMNH has two parts that continue to hold my interest; the dinosaurs and my favorite President Teddy Roosevelt. After all the Roosevelt’s founded this museum so it’s appropriate that the wing honoring him has been renovated. At his home TR “called his collection of books and artifacts from his family’s travels, the “Roosevelt Museum of Natural History”. It was in his blood always.
This new hall was so well done. Right in the center is a statute of Teddy Roosevelt with the National Park insignia in gold on the floor near the bench he sits on. If you are not paying close attention you can walk right by without noticing him. I sure did.
Each wall of this exhibit showcases a part of Roosevelt’s life that would come into play later on through this museum. There are the animals he studied in his youth, the natural parks he wanted protected, and his active life after the presidency. It is like being in a room with a three hundred sixty five degree view of his life’s influence.
If you walk outside you will find yourself back in front of the museum where Teddy is seen riding high on his horse welcoming you to the place he built. I love that his mark on American life is still so relevant, which brings me to my next activity, the feature film.
President Teddy Roosevelt established The National Parks during his presidency and acknowledged they needed to be protected and cared for. This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of The National Parks Department. Many are celebrating by letting visitors in for free and/or having special tours. Be sure to check the websites before you go so that you can take advantage.
Naturally the film I choose to see that day was about The National Parks. As i sat back in the nice cool theater and saw the same majestic views that are still as gorgeous as when he saw them melt my heart. It was by far the perfect way to end my visit.
Overall I got to see all of the things I hoped to. However there is still so much more I would like to revisit and discover. The American Museum of Natural History is one of the largest museums I have ever been to. There is only so much ground I can cover on any one day. But it always leaves me talking about what I saw while simultaneously planning my next adventure there. For those of you with a better stamina than I, check out the New York Historical Society which is right across the street (http://thequeenoff-ckingeverything.blogspot.com/2013/04/for-preservation-of-new-yorks-history.html). While doing my research prior to my titanosaur experience I learned that “in Argentina anything underground, including fossils, belongs to the state.” The subject of fossil owning is something I now am quite sensitive to, ever since I watched “Dinosaur 13” and read the book it is based on, “Rex Appeal” by Peter Larson. This story tells the tale of “Sue” the largest most complete T-Rex skeleton that has ever been found. A team from the Black Hills Institute in South Dakota was responsible for locating her and bringing her back to life.
However this story has several sad components including theft, fraud, and big government versus independent contractors.
Sue was kidnapped from “the “playground” she was found in and landed at The Field Museum in Chicago. The Black Hills Institute is still a museum I plan to visit as soon as I get to that state.
Ironically Sue was discovered twenty-six years ago this week, back on August 12, 1990.
The Sue story (see how much easier it is with a name!) provides quite an education. It is like the “Blackfish” of excavation. Now looking at artifacts in museums always have me wondering how they came to be there. For more about Sue checkout my new Chicago blog series when it arrives next month.
Apparently the past can come alive when you least expect it. Just like in Jurassic World.
For More Information on AMNH:
For More Information on Titanosaur:
For More Teddy Roosevelt:
For More Sue: