Though this post is being written far too late for the latest edition of The Boneyard whose theme this time around is “your favorite museums”, I feel that the concept is nice and, in light of this, elected to post my own response (hopefully, I’ll be able to submit something for the next issue, as it’d likely do wonders for raising awareness about my wee patch of the internet). While big museums like the AMNH, DMNH, NMMNHS, and Smithsonian are certainly impressive by any scale, I’ll focus primarily on smaller establishments here primarily because:
A) I find that, while larger museums generally do a better job of reviewing the fossil record of the nation as a whole (and often that of the rest of the world), smaller museums are frequently more adept at giving their patronizers a superior look at that of the local area.
B) Somebody has to give them their due recognition.
The Museum of the Earth, Ithaca NY.
I started life as a New Yorker, specifically hailing from the city of Rochester (or, in the local dialect, “Raachester”) which is just over an hour’s drive away from Ithaca (unless my father is driving). Since I spent my first eighteen years of existance in the Monroe county area, I frequently badgered my parents into taking me to Ithaca to see the PRI’s (Paleontological Research Institution’s) museum, which, paleontologically-speaking, was infinitely preferable to the local alternative (although, in all fairness, the Rochester Museum and Science Center has “beefed up” its paleo display of late, with a new Albertosaurus cast and my personal favorite, a life-sized American mastodon statue complete with fur!). Boasting several top-quality displays on subjects ranging from ammonites to armored Devonian fish to mastodons (as well as a complete right whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling), this institution is well-worth the trip for anyone interested in paleo (paticularly ice age mammals and paleozoic invertebrates/fish).
Mesalands Dinosaur Museum, Tucumcari NM.
The fact that I both volunteer and study at this small-town institution and have included it on this list should not, by any regard, be misconstrued as a case of academic nepotism. MCC is a small college in a miniscule town (from my yankee perspective), but it has established several programs (including a fine one for undergrad paleo) which are perfectly capable of rivaling their counterparts in larger institutions. The museum is the epitomy of this, sporting the world’s largest collection of paleontologically-oriented bronze casts and sculptures, courtesy of the college’s art department. It also maintains an impressive array of all things Triassic, ranging from fossils to paintings to collections, as well as a considerably well-designed group of displays highlighting the later Mesozoic. Upcoming displays include a case filled with remains of giant Carboniferous horsetails, a proboscidean display featuring casts and illustrations of my beloved mammoths (the indigenous Columbian and the ever-popular Woolly) and mastodons, and (in the more distant future) a collection of petrified wood from the later Triassic. The museum is located midway between Amarillo and Albequerque, so if you’re in the area, I’d highly reccomend a visit. (Tell ’em Mark sent ya!)
May the fossil record continue to enchant us all.