Wednesday, February 06, 2013

a day at the museum: PRI

i think what i said to you is that the part of the day in which i went to the museum of the earth deserved its own post.

i do not think i was fully prepared for the visit, because even though i know that the Paleontological Research Institution is home to one of the world's finest fossil collections i was just not prepared for the scope of the thing.

yeah, i get that we exist in a tiny little slice of time and occupy a tiny little biological niche and that there were things before us and probably things after us but i was just not prepared for the sheer hugeness of it to be laid out so graphically and solidly.

i had spent some time in the maine highlands casually looking at some of the geological formations there and of course because i was around ithaca i was looking at some geological formations because, really, if you're in ithaca and you are not looking at the geologic history you really have to be purposely looking away since everywhere you go there are displays of the geologic eras right there in the open.

so pretty soon after my museum visit i wrote a post that was kind of about my being all agog and i promised loosely to write another post with some pictures and junk and this is that post.

the first thing you notice when you enter the building is the giant whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling. you can't really say it's in the entryway, because it takes up rather a lot of space on two floors. it is very, very big.

it is not a fossil, but the remains of north american right whale #2030.

that's right. there are so few right whales left that each one of them is assigned an identity number for tracking.

this one, when she died, was acquired by the museum so her bones at least could be seen.

so then the next thing you notie it the really big mind boggling multi-panel painting that occupies the ramp down toward the display areas. if you are a patient person and have the time, the museum offers a doohickey (free of charge) that you can hold to your ear so you can listen to an audio tour of the painting and i really recommend it. it's an amazing painting and it illustrates some stunning life science concepts.

it kind of blew my temporal tracking gasket, though, because it turns out that i am not very good running a story time line in reverse. iam not able to think seamlessly in reverse time; i have to start where the story starts and go forward and then think "ok, but before that?' and then i can run the chunk of the story before that and link it up and i know when you're looking at the painting the idea behind setting it up in reversing time is to put you in the frame of mind of going back through the geological record from the surface where we live down to places that were exposed long before we lived and it works to illustrate depth and passage through time in preparation for looking at the exhibits, but sometime i will return and look at that painting starting at the bottom and think about that story seamless and moving forward.

and the first thing you get to after that is the dinosaur coprolites, which is an amusing placement of some things you don't have to think too hard about before you dive right down through the eras and have a hard look and a long think about the stunning scope of life on this planet and the life OF this planet and it's really hard not to notice all the mass extinctions.

i took some pictures for you, and made a little video of an interesting and nicely mounted ammonoid fossil.

and one of the things i notice about my pictures is that often i take pictures that serve no apparent purpose except to remind me to look something up later, because while the seismograph drums were very interesting and i understand the general concepts, there were some very specific labels with some terminology i did not understand, so i took pictures of those so i'd remember what to look up.

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