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Posts Tagged ‘American Museum of Natural History

“Natural history is not about producing fables”*…

 

Or, then again, maybe it can be…

Lori Nix has created  a series of photos that show the mayhem behind the scenes at an imaginary natural history museum.  Many of the scenes reveal back-room deceit, like the a T. rex skeleton built from a do-it-yourself kit (above), the half-made papier-mâché mastodon (below), and a family of beavers emerging from a crate marked “Product of Mexico.”  There is plenty of dark humor, like a bucket of fried chicken left in an avian storage room, and a pack of tigers and lions prowling around the remains of an unlucky custodian.  Ms. Nix, who assembled the foam-and-cardboard scenes in the living room of her Brooklyn apartment, was inspired by visits to the American Museum of Natural History.  “I come from the Midwest, the land of hunting and fishing, where there is a culture of stuffing your prize game,” she said. As for her favorite exhibits, like the bison and the Alaskan brown bear: “I hope they never update them.”

Read more, and learn where to see her work here.  And then visit the extraordinary Museum of Jurassic Technology… or if L.A. isn’t handy, read Lawrence Weschler’s extraordinary Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder.)

* David Attenborough

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As we look for our own inspiration, we might recall that it was on this date in 1869 that the American Museum of Natural history was incorporated.  Its founding had been urged in a letter, dated December 30, 1868, and sent to Andrew H. Green, Comptroller of Central Park, New York, signed by 19 persons, including Theodore Roosevelt, A.G. Phelps Dodge, and J. Pierpont Morgan.  They wrote: “A number of gentlemen having long desired that a great Museum of Natural History should be established in Central Park, and having now the opportunity of securing a rare and very valuable collection as a nucleus of such Museum, the undersigned wish to enquire if you are disposed to provide for its reception and development.”  Their suggestion was accepted by Park officials; the collections were purchased– and thus the great museum began.  It opened April 27, 1871.

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“The Creator, if He exists, has an inordinate fondness for beetles”…

 

J. B. S. Haldane was moved to utter the quote that gives this post its title by his observation that there are more types of beetles than any other form of insect, and more insects than any other kind of animal. Cataloguing beetles, then, is a formidable challenge… But not too daunting for Dr. Udo Schmidt of Selbitz, in Germany.  Dr. Schmidt has photographed and catalogued thousands of them– which readers can find here.

(Dr. Schmidt, something of a taxonomical overachiever, has also photographed and collected thousands of mollusks.)

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As we wonder where we left that roach, we might recall that it was on this date in 1871 that the American Museum of Natural History opened to the public in New York City. Organized into a series of exhibits, the Museum’s collection–which had ben gathered from the time of the Museum’s founding in 1869– went on view for the first time in the Central Park Arsenal, the Museum’s original home, on the eastern side of Central Park. The cornerstone of the Museum’s first building was laid in Manhattan Square (79th Street and Central Park West), the Museum’s current location, in 1874; but it is obscured from view by the many Museum buildings in the complex that today occupy most of the Square.

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Remembrance of Things Vast…

From the Himalayas, through our atmosphere, then dark space all the way out– that’s to say, back– to the afterglow of the Big Bang:  the American Museum of Natural History presents The Known Universe.

Every star, planet, and quasar seen in the film is possible because of the world’s most complete four-dimensional map of the universe, the Digital Universe Atlas that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History. The new film, created by the Museum, is part of an exhibition, Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe, at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan through May 2010.

For more information visit the Museum’s web site.

(ToTH to Jesse Dylan)

As we stand in the places we are, we might recall that it was on (or about, historians are imprecise) this date in 1232 that Pope Gregory IX sent the first Inquisition team to the Kingdom of Aragon, in Spain, to prosecute the Albigensian heresy.

Saint Raymond of Penyafort, who codified the Canon Law for Gregory IX

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