Learning stuff at the American Museum of Natural History

Declan with dinosaur - t-rex to be precise.

How do you clean a life-size statue of a blue whale hanging from your ceiling?

We learnt the answer to this, and many other questions, today at the American Museum of Natural History.

New York in the rain.

Since we living approximately 30-seconds walk from the Natural History Museum we’d been saving it for a rainy day. That day was today and so we ventured over and in to the 46 interconnected buildings that make up the museum. It was quickly apparent that this was a museum with a capital ‘M’, the sort of museum others aspire to be when they grow up. Possibly the archetype museum. I am, in case you cannot guess, utterly in love with this place.

Fantastic interesting exhibits – from Neanderthal bones to dinosaur skeletons, from dugout canoes to enormous meteorites, from gemstones to Easter Island statues. The list of things to see seemed endless. But great exhibits are not enough. Everything was clearly and fully explained and put in context in a way which made the place entirely engaging. You could lose yourself in the various halls and emerge later a much older and wiser person. I just wish we could come back again and again and spend enough time to really do the place justice.

This made the kids' day thanks to Night at the Museum.

But we only had today and so had to move apace. And catering to the geek in me, as well as the lover of museums telling a story, there is an iPhone app that leads you about the building. It knows exactly where you are and takes you to the next thing you want to see – you can use pre-made tours or make up your own by choosing from an exhaustive list of exhibits. Simply brilliant. We picked bits out of the Night at the Museum tour and added in our own interests. By the end I think we’d seen every single thing in the Museum, at least briefly.

Blue whale and vacuum cleaner.

We spent all day in the Museum, wandering from place to place. We learnt a great deal and had enormous fun seeing things from places we’d been – ancient man against the backdrop of a river we’d stood beside in France, casts of dinosaur eggs that we’d seen the originals of in Beijing – in itself our visit was a great way of reminding the boys of some of the things we’ve seen this year.

Right at the end we went to see Hall of Marine Life which is dominated by a life-size model of a blue whale. And there, to answer the question posed at the beginning of this post, was a man on a cherry-picker vacuuming the whale.

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