Saturday, June 02, 2007

Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns, and Mermaids

Wendy and I had been planning to go to beach today but the weather prediction was rain, so we went to the Museum of Natural History with Kir and Joe instead. As it turned out, it was an absolutely beautiful day, but we had a nice time at the museum so it's all good.

The admission is suggested at the museum although unlike at the Met they don't actually tell you that when you're purchasing--let that be a lesson for anyone who doesn't read the small print on the signs. Unlike the Met, they do charge for all the special exhibits and they charge quite a bit. Which is bullshit. I mean, it's fine if you're a tourist I suppose, but if you're going somewhat regularly, you certainly don't want to pay it. As if the annoyance of paying $16 to see one exhibit in a museum wasn't enough, we were stuck behind that particular breed of annoying tourist that really annoys me. They don't decide what they're going to actually buy tickets to until they get up to the front of the line and then they want to know things like, "so the imax show is forty-two minutes?"

We went to the Hall of Human Evolution and saw what we hadn't seen last time around. I can only imagine how many little creationist heads have exploded due to this exhibit. While the first section is about the physical evolution of Homo Sapiens, the second section of the hall is about brain development. It talks about the development of language and music, the use of tools, etc. They did a really nice job of the whole exhibit I think.

Anyway, we wandered around, got something to eat, and then headed up to the Mythic Creatures exhibit at about 4:15 (our ticket time was 4:30). The exhibit opens with a little turn around the corner and suddenly there's a dragon. I would have loved that when I was a kid. Wendy and I aren't quick museum people to begin with, but given that we had to pay, we figured we'd read every damn word in the exhibit. We didn't actually get to do that because the museum was closing and we had to rush through the end of the earth section and the air section, but we still got to see an awful lot of stuff.

The exhibit is divided into three sections: water, earth, and air. Each one talks about the mythological creatures supposedly found there, the different variations found in different locations and over time, and where these myths might have originated. It's actually fascinating stuff. They cover everything from the Kappa, who can be defeated by bowing, to a kind of bigfoot-type creature in China who faints with happiness when he catches a human--then wakes up and eats him. I love a monster that faints. Also, upon reading this, Wendy told me about the Fainting Goat (seriously, it actually exists) and anything that leads to my learning about fainting animals is pretty much awesome.

The whole exhibit does a good job creating a sort of magical feeling. Whenever the museum created new halls or exhibits they do a good job of putting in tactile and interactive stuff, which I don't remember them having when I was little. There were little images of bones you could move around with a magnet, transforming a mammoth skeleton into a giant, and you could make your own dragons, and giant squid tentacles around the water part of the exhibit (not giant whale cool but still pretty neat).

I almost wish they'd covered still more mythological creatures. Yes, that's right, I wanted the exhibit to be longer. I also recommend showing bits of so-terrible-they're-good movies involving mythological creatures. For example, you could show parts of Clash of the Titans near the statue of Pegasus or in the part of the exhibit about the Kraken. You simply cannot tell me that Clash of the Titans would not make any museum exhibit fabulous. The museum should totally hire me. I'm full of good ideas. I bet my high school Latin teacher who used to plug in her curling iron and curl her hair during class would dig that one.

Despite the lack of cheesy movies based on Greek myths it was a great exhibit that we all enjoyed. So yay for Kir deciding to go and inviting Wendy and I along.


Schnookie said...

This post just made me so happy! I LOVE the Museum of Natural History, and I love how you pointed out how if you'd been a kid you would have adored the turning the corner and running into a dragon. There's something about that museum that makes it almost impossible NOT to see it through the eyes of a child. (One of my fondest NYC memories was visiting Pookie while she was at NYU, and we went to the Hayden Planetarium. We wandered around the whole Hayden sphere exhibit for, like, half an hour before we realized the illustrations were demonstrating the sizes of objects in the universe relative to each other, using the sphere as a point of reference. So we ran back to the beginning and proceeded to spend hours going from sign to sign with our minds getting blown by each one -- "Oh my GOD! If the human heart is the size of the Hayden sphere, then a bacterium is the size of THIS DOT!!!" The tourists were pointing and laughing at us. But man, did it make sciencey learning magical!)

Meg said...

You and Pookie are clearly my kind of museum goers. :)

I love the Cosmic Pathway by the planetarium where at the very end there's like a strand of hair or an itty bitty line or whatever (I haven't been to that part of the museum for a few years), and it's all, "if this pathway represents all of history from the big bang to now, this itty bitty line is all of recorded human history." If nothing else it really puts you in your place.

When I was little my dad used to take my sister and me to the museum all the time when we visited New York. I loved it then, but It's so much better now, I think, because the redone halls have all the interactive stuff and you're not just looking at things so often now.

Schnookie said...

You're right that the museum is much better now. We used to go on school trips a lot when I was little, and it really was a lot of standing around and staring. But standing around and staring at dioramas! And, of course, the whale. (Although looking back now I'm like, "Was I really that easily amused?" I guess I was a cheap and easy date when I was eight.)

Kirsten said...