Saturday, June 11, 2011

Happy Oceans Day at the Natural History Museum

Our New York Marathon
Day 10
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Our calendar says today is Oceans Day—it seems an appropriate time to visit the American Museum of Natural History.  The subway has a stop for the museum—and the walls at the stop are decorated with many tile depictions of animals.  Isn’t this life-size subway seascape a wonderful first photo for our Oceans Day log?  

Deciding where to go first is easy—the ticketing agent gives us tickets to the next Planetarium show and sends us off get in line for it right away.  It is a great show about how stars and planets form and die with lots of beautiful light show projections on the dome and special effects.  We think that an experienced educator decided that the effect that combines a surround-sound explosion with vibrating the seats has to happen at least every six minutes to keep the audience awake, and then they wrote the script for the show accordingly.  It worked for us. 

After that, the museum is so huge it is hard to decide what to do.  We wander around the gems and minerals (boring presentation) and the birds (the stuffed ones in the dioramas are very old and faded, and a lot of the exhibit is just study skins arranged on a wall—boring again).  We finally find our way into the evolution exhibit, which is captivating—clearly, someone has put some time into refreshing the content in the past thirty years, unlike most of the permanent exhibits.  The African animal dioramas are beautiful—renovated in 1972, the plaque says, giving us a hint as to how much longer ago it must have been that anyone touched the bird dioramas.   

We save the best—the Museum’s impressive dinosaur collection—for last.  There are no robotic life-size models or monstrous sound effects, just big breath-taking bones and excellent labels telling about how they were discovered, and urging the visitor to notice the clues that tell us how the dinosaurs moved, what they ate, and other aspects of their lives. We spend a very long time admiring the dinosaurs, and leave on a high note.  

We don’t do a lot more than this today.  When dinnertime rolls around, we think about all the different ethnic foods we have had lately, and decide it is time to add to our repertoire by strolling over to our own neighborhood’s Little India.  Just a few streets over from ours is a block that has around a dozen Indian Restaurants to choose from--each with an Indian standing at the door urging us to come on in and enjoy a free appetizer, or free music, or air conditioned comfort.  We pick one that looks particularly lovely and busy, and enjoy a wonderful meal . . . and a great end to yet another great day in New York.

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