Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Natural History Museum

East of the park, 5th avenue is crowded with dozens of museums dedicated to Art, History, Science and what have you and hoards of tourists clamber up and down the esteemed avenue not realizing that across the park is quite another treasure to behold: the Natural History Museum. Granted, I exaggerate, since the Night at the Museum movies came out, the Natural History Museum has received its due share of popularity.

It is still one of my favorite places to wander on a Saturday afternoon.

My friend Adam, from Australia, has been in town all week and I have been too busy with work and he too busy with his flock of adolescent school boys to meet up for tea. We finally set down an afternoon date where I was off work and he was taking the boys around to museums. We agreed to meet at 12:30 and I dutifully showed up, but the boys decided on a pit stop for lunch, so I got to spend an hour wandering the halls on my own (no complaints here).

I have always been impressed with the vignettes of different habitats they have set up throughout the museum, in the main halls particularly. There is a great deal of truth to them, with the smallest amount of sarcasm: A lean rooster cleanses himself in a transparent pool of water, doubtless preparing for his mate, as an epic snake coils in anticipation to swallow him whole. The stuffed animals seemed somewhat morbid to me when I first visited the museum, but the more time I spend with them, contemplating their lives and whether the groupings were even of the same decade, let alone the same pack or family, the more at home I feel around them. I often wonder if they still know each other, or are they strangers forced into a glass bubble (yes, I know they're dead, but after all, energy is never lost or gained, it can only be displaced).

I am also very fond of the prehistoric collections on the upper floors. Wandering through remains of colossal creatures that could not possibly exist today brings forth an incredible longing to know what the world was like before we entered it. To see the giant porcupine husks and colorful outer shells of these prehistoric animals would be quite a treat. Imagine, a world with epic flying reptiles and turtles that could swallow you whole. Amazingly, although contorted and different in shape and size, each bone has the same structure, they are so similar to the way we are today. Sure, sizes decreased and animals no longer need spikes jutting out of their spinal cords, but the ribcage still performs the same task, and the same sets of limbs move us about our lives.

I finally met up with Adam and we chatted about our lives since I left Australia a few months back. He double-fisted coffee and wine, as I became accustomed to seeing him do, and we stared out the window in the cafe at the green tufts of trees below.

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