Los Angeles Natural History Museum Redefined

by Elizabeth Lee

August 09, 2013

From:  http://www.voanews.com/content/los-angeles-natural-history-museum-redefined/1726924.html

LOS ANGELES — In many cities, the place tosee old dinosaur bones is a natural history museum.


But this kind of museum is evolving, offeringexhibits that a visitor would never imagine in a natural history museum. Thenew exhibit at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is an exampleof how the natural history museum is being redefined. 


First time visitors expecting dinosaurbones may be surprised to find live turtles, rats and snakes on the firstfloor. The dinosaurs live on the second floor along with relics of the past.


Among the museum's newest exhibits is onecalled "Becoming LA.”  It tells LA’s history from a differentperspective, says Jonathan Gillett, the museum's assistant collectionsmanager.  


“Not only arewe interpreting natural history. We also, as a part of our mission statement,are interpreting cultural history as well. So it shows the way that the environment has influenced people and howpeople have influenced the environment," said Gillett.


The collection includes a wooden cross fromthe mid 1700s when the Spanish established missions in California. There is also a locally made carfrom 1902.  The history of Los Angeles would be incomplete without Hollywood. The exhibit includes a camera thatwas used to film silent movies.  Also onexhibit, a costume worn by silent movie star Charlie Chaplin.


“Hollywood wasincredibly close to a lot of other natural habitats that could stand in forother places around the world," said Gillett.


In addition to Hollywoodartifacts and relics of the past, the museum is also focused on the living,says the museum's Kristin Friedrich.


“In the cracksof sidewalks or in the chimneys of buildings of Los Angeles, there’s incrediblelife.  And a lot of these species that weexplore here find ways to live in the city like we find ways to live in thecity," said Friedrich.


There are live plants and animals in anoutdoor garden and an indoor nature lab. Friedrich says this is a departurefrom the traditional natural history museum.


“Traditionallythe natural history museum is a 19th century model.  Back then you would put dead things in acabinet. You would have a text panel and people would walk around and look in avery dark hall," she said.


She says natural history museums arereinventing themselves, exploring themes like conservation and human's impacton the environment.  Tim Waters likesthis museum.


“This wholeexhibit is an on-going history, and so it’s giving us not just an ancienthistory but our place and how we form history," said Waters.


His eight year-old son, Wyatt, prefers theolder residents here.


“I think thedinosaur exhibit is a little bit more interesting than this exhibit," hesaid.


The dinosaurs are not going away. They’rejust sharing the space with livelier critters.