Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Museum of Taxidermy

I was at the Museum of Natural History today for their Darwin exhibition, partly because I was in the neighborhood, partly because America is quickly turning into a cesspool of ignorance, and partly because I become a blubbering idiot when the museum says the exhibit has live animals, as if I've never seen a big fat tortoise before. And the Galápagos tortoises they have on display aren't even from the Galápagos — they're from Wisconsin. (Favorite fun Wisconsin tortoise fact: "They both appear to be female — but it is difficult to say for sure. Their sex cannot be positively determined until they reach sexual maturity, when they're around 40 years old.") I'm not complaining: the Museum of Natural History has more stuffed animals than F.A.O. Schwarz, so it's nice that they're trying to expand my horizons with something that's still breathing. I don't really get the point of the Hall of Taxidermy — it seems kind of quaint ever since mankind invented zoos.

Advantage of, say, showing off a stuffed tortoise diorama as opposed to the real thing: no giant terrapin turds. Seriously, those things have amazing crapping capabilities.

I gotta say that the Darwin exhibit was interesting but unconvincing, and actually sort of at odds with the rest of the museum. I guess I could've expected this, but the exhibit was more about Darwin than his theory of evolution, with his notebooks and pictures of his kids and a one-fortieth scale model of the H.M.S. Beagle, like it's the Darwin estate rather than a science museum. Maybe the whole theory of evolution is way beyond the mental capacities of schoolkids who just showed up for the pile of dinosaur bones and the moon rocks, but I personally think Darwin's theory is a very elegant and beautiful explanation for the variety of life on Earth, and I wouldn't mind it if the exhibit's collection — the peppered moth displays, the bipedal man skulls from australopithecus to homo sapiens, the comet orchid and Morgan's sphinx moth — if the exhibit's collection highlighted that elegance. I wouldn't mind it if the museum pounded it into our eagerly innocuous brains, as they do without any qualms when it comes to environmental awareness: "Even though our oceans cover nearly two-thirds of the Earth's surface, they can still be damaged by pollution." Duh.

"We're the museum and we know better than you: Darwin was right, creationists are wrong, now look how horses' hooves developed from epihippus to equus. Touch the bones, idiot."

As you might have guessed, I don't really like the Museum of Natural History. They're overpriced, they have this weird timestamped ticketing system, and they really dumb down the science, like the cerebral intensity that place asks of its visitors is somewhere between the Franklin Institute and Epcot Center. It has gift shops metastasizing throughout its body, and the new planetarium show is pretty inane. But if you are in the city and have an hour to spare (and also twenty bucks or so), I definitely recommend the museum's indoor butterfly conservatory because, even though lepidoptery is totally lame, spending two hours trying to convince Danaus plexippus to land on your arm long enough to take a picture is kind of like being legally stoned.


'Thought & Humor' said...

You have a riveting web log
and undoubtedly must have
atypical & quiescent potential
for your intended readership.

*Boas Festas e um feliz Ano Novo,
*Feliz Navidad y Próspero Año Nuevo,
*Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année!
*Mo'adim Lesimkha. Shanah Tova,
*Fröhliche Weihnachten und ein glückliches -
Neues Jahr!
*Merry Christmas,
Dr. Howdy

'Thought & Humor'