Friday, May 15, 2015

We Went to Chicago: Field Museum

The Field Museum is on the same museum campus as Shedd Aquarium, which means that the next day, we caught the bus there like total pros.

Meet my favorite fossil, Sue:

You might remember that I'm a big Sue fangirl--I'm fascinated by her history, and the story of her discovery and the controversy of her ownership. We visited the Museum @ Black Hills Institute over the summer, and I was excited to revisit her with that context in mind.

If you stand in exactly the correct spot, Sue can look you right in the eye:


Of course, that isn't her real skull there on the skeleton. Her real skull is upstairs, and it looks like this:

See the mirror underneath it so that you can see it from all angles? I LOVE that touch.

As the kids and I were admiring Sue and taking photos and heavily discussing all aspects of her form, a nice docent dude walked over and asked if we had any questions. You may remember this about me, but I LOVE docents, and I ALWAYS have questions.

So when the docent walked over, I was all excited to ask him the question that the kids and I had been debating amongst ourselves. You see Sue's tail?

Sue's tail has some interesting similarities to the edmontosaurus tail. Just last month, we were in the Children's Museum of Indianapolis Fossil Prep Lab, prepping specimens of neural spine (that bone above the tail) and chevron (that bone underneath the tail). So both edmontosaurus annectens and tyrannosaurus rex have those bones. But what about the actual vertebrae? One of the paleontologists at the Children's Museum took us back into the warehouse to see a cast of a complete edmontosaurus skeleton, so we could view the neural spines and chevrons where they belong, but neither the kids nor I could remember if the edmontosaurus also had vertebrae in its tail with that horizontal bone sticking out. Could the docent tell us what the name was of that bone in Sue's tail, and possibly explain if the tail structure of all dinosaurs was similar, or if there were interesting differences between dinosaur species?

The docent stared at me, blinking occasionally, as I explained my question, then waited politely to make sure I'd finished and wasn't merely pausing for breath before setting off again, then paused while deliberating his answer, then finally said, "Ma'am, I cannot answer that question."

Awkward.

Fortunately, he then asked ME some questions (about the mummified dinosaur that's on display at the Children's Museum--I love that dinosaur mummy!), and we eventually parted as friends, although I saw him still standing near Sue a couple of hours later when we again passed through the lobby, and I am 100% positive that he saw us and immediately turned his back and pretended that we weren't there.

Our admission to the Field Museum was free, on account of our local science museum, the Wonderlab, has reciprocal benefits there (I LOVE the ASTC Passport Program!), but I also bought us admission to the Field Museum's temporary exhibit on Vikings. One of my (too many) emphases in grad school was Old Norse, so I have a tediously detailed knowledge of and acutely nerdy interest in the Vikings.

Random story: As I was purchasing our admission tickets, the cashier asked how many tickets to the Viking exhibit I wanted. I looked over at the kids to make sure that there was no random adult standing with us and pretending to be my co-parent, and then said, "Um, three?"

The cashier, sensing my confusion, explained, "Well, some people only buy tickets for themselves, not their kids."

"What do they do with their kids while they're in the exhibit?"

She shrugged. "Leave them outside, I guess."

If I'd left my kids outside, I would have NO ONE to nerdily point out runes to!

And at one point, as Syd and I were looking at little figurines, I saw an image of Freyja, and happily pointed at her and exclaimed to Syd, "Look, it's Freyja! Remember when I told you about Freyja? She's the one with the cat-skin gloves!" Syd obediently looked at it and nodded in a vaguely interested way, but the couple standing just on our other side edged away from me uncomfortably.

And Friends, this exhibit had TEXTILE specimens!!!!

Insert contented sigh.

Oh, and this is super cool:

It's excavated from a boat burial. I don't remember if the boat was burned or only buried, but either way, the wood, of course, had long decomposed by the time it was discovered, and only the rivets were left. So for this display, the curator hung the rivets from fishing line, exactly as they would be placed in the real boat!

See, it's both 3D and boat-shaped!

Coolest. Exhibit. Ever.

I also really like the Field Museum because, even though many of its exhibits are updated and quite modern, many are exactly the same as they were when the museum was first founded:

Old-school to the extreme. Will, especially, LOVES it:


This kid could walk around this museum all day, looking at every single thing in every single case and reading every single accompanying caption:

This one, on the other hand...


The Field Museum has a cool app that we played with--you scan a QR code at the exhibit, and you can see even MORE detailed information about it on your phone!

I knew we wouldn't be able to cover the entire museum in one day, so I had the kids take turns choosing galleries--we'd explore that gallery, and when we found ourselves back in the lobby, it was another kid's turn. 

Syd's first choice (after my turn--Vikings--and Will's turn--Mammals of Asia) was an updated exhibit on evolution. It began with the Big Bang, and you followed the history of the universe, then the earth, through the exhibit, passing various Extinction Level Events and seeing cool things and, partway through, finding your way into the dinosaur gallery! 


Oh, Happy Land.


Immediately after this photo was taken, I sat back down on the bench just behind me to better admire the Daspletosaurus there (this specimen used to be misidentified as an Albertasaurus!!!). A dude walked up, point and shoot camera in hand, snapped a photo of the dinosaur, then turned to me and said, "It's beautiful, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is!" I heartily exclaimed.

"I wonder if you'd like this book?" Random Dude then asked. "It offers another point of view."

And then, my friends, you are not going to freaking believe it, but RANDOM DUDE PULLED A RELIGIOUS TRACT OUT OF HIS SHIRT POCKET AND TRIED TO HAND IT TO ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'd instinctively reached my hand out when he offered, but as soon as I got a glimpse of what he was offering I snatched my hand back to my chest, then realized that I was being rude, so I smiled a SUPER crazy I Am Not Freaking Out AND Yet Am Totally Freaking Out smile, said, "Oh, no thank you," as nicely as I could, and began to giggle out of horror and embarrassment.

Dude left the dinosaur gallery immediately after this, because avoiding the crazy lady is more important than spreading the gospel.

Seriously, though--could he have made a poorer choice than to approach ME?!? I cannot have looked in any way like his target demographic, fangirling over the dinosaur bones like the biggest nerdy nerd who had ever nerded. My religious conversion in the dinosaur gallery of the evolution exhibit at the science museum... that's just a non-starter.

Okay, though, but Friends, this moment, when I was handed and ALMOST TOUCHED an anti-evolution religious tract, this moment has seared into my brain so clearly that I can clearly picture that tract.

And if I can picture it, I can research it.

And, Friends, I freaking FOUND it. For your reading pleasure/horror, I offer to you the link to the complete anti-evolution, incomprehensible religious tract entitled Big Daddy?

Suffer through it, and then rest yourself back in the arms of this welcoming, wonderful dinosaur:

Seriously, have you hugged a parasaurolophus today?

Check it out--Base Ten blocks!

Oh, and this--a ritual burial dating from the Pleistocene Epoch:

And our good friend, the mammoth:

By closing time, we were all super punchy and basically just crazed with informative overstimulation. Witness: 

Will was SO excited to see a life-sized model of a shaduf that she ran to find me, tugged me over, and then basically just beamed and pointed until I recognized it, as well. 
By the time we were ready to go, we were so dead-tired that when Will discovered that the large gift shop downstairs didn't stock the gummy dinosaurs that she'd wanted to buy from the "Sue Store" upstairs but I'd put her off because I didn't want to carry them around all day, she decided that she didn't want to walk back upstairs and go buy them.

Imagine. Too tired for gummy dinosaurs!

I conceded that in the future, we could purchase the crap that the children want to purchase in the gift shop of their origin as they encounter them, although I'm not going to be the one carrying that crap around all day. And I guess I know what to buy her for her birthday now!

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