In this situation, "holding hands" is NOT necessarily a good thing.
was working at a science museum while it was hosting a very popular
traveling exhibit about human anatomy. I was selling audio guides at the
A woman who had already passed my desk and
headed into the exhibit came back around the corner to the audio guide
station. She was cupping her hand in front of her, clearly holding
She held out her hand to give me what she held. When I reached for whatever it was, she said “I just touched it very
gently and these fell off."
I looked down and I was holding the finger bones from a skeleton on display.
I lost the ability to
speak for a moment.
When I regained some words, I
told her to PLEASE not touch anything else in the exhibit. After she left (totally unconcerned about the situation) I got on the
radio to call in the exhibits staff person. I must have sounded pretty flustered
because he came running, along with the onsite traveling exhibition coordinator. Both were pretty flabbergasted when I
handed them the bones.
I now work at a different museum where no one hands me skeleton bits.
Thanks to more than 1,500 donors and even more who watched our video and shared our campaign, today I am thrilled to present our Indiegogo-created striped hyena diorama, now on display at The Field Museum. I’ve got lots and lots of feels - so here are the remarks I presented at our Hyena Homecoming event last night. My heart is bursting with joy. <3
Hi everyone. My name is Emily Graslie, and I’m the Field Museum’s Chief Curiosity Correspondent, and the host and writer of our educational YouTube channel, The Brain Scoop. Most of you know that already, but I haven’t yet become tired of saying it out loud. With the help of Jaap and the exhibitions department, our communications, marketing and fundraising teams, research and science staff, conservators, designers, supportive executives, the 50+ staff and over 1,500 donors from around the world, tonight we bring you the Field’s first-ever crowd-sourced project, and the first full-scale habitat diorama created here in over 6 decades.
I am ridiculously happy that you’re all here, and want to thank you for coming out tonight. Many of you traveled quite far to get here, and everyone in this room has waited for a long time for this special diorama.. depending on how you think of it, on the one hand it was a minimum of eight months in the making, and on the other hand, that figure is closer to eighty years. So, first and foremost, thank you for all of your hard work, patience, commitment, and the shared belief that Project Hyena Diorama was, in fact, a good idea.
That all being said, April 6th, 2015 - the day we launched Project Hyena Diorama on Indiegogo - was one of the most terrifying days of my life. The Brain Scoop was pretty much all fun and games up until that point. Because there aren’t a lot of comparable channels to The Brain Scoop, I calculate our program’s success with things like hand-drawn holiday cards from children, fan art, and letters from students recently inspired by our episodes to pursue new fields of study. But this was the first time we’ve taken a chance and gone out on a limb based off of a belief that those letters, comments, shares and retweets, and the thumbs-up on videos translate into a genuine and deep interest in museums and their roles in our lives. Project Hyena Diorama was a way to tangibly involve those digital supporters – including many of you – in a very real, very permanent thing.
None of us were 100% certain we would pull it off. But I imagine that same level of nervousness happened here when the Field decided to bring me on, and in doing so become pretty much the only institution with a full-time YouTuber on its staff. I’m told frequently that big ships turn slowly, and the Field Museum is one massive ship. I can’t emphasize enough how much faith my bosses and colleagues had to have had in me to even entertain this idea. When I say it couldn’t have happened without you, and the 1,400 other donors who couldn’t be here tonight, I genuinely mean it.
So, fast forward six weeks from that terrifying launch date, and - spoiler alert - we did it! Then, people started asking me why I thought viewers and museum fans donated to the project. After all, hyenas aren’t the most charismatic creatures. So if you’re up for it, I’d love for some of you to let me know why you decided to help out and come here tonight, because honestly I’ve just been making up answers for you. “January is a great month to visit Chicago!” said nobody ever.
Your reasonings probably vary, but I’ll tell you why I was so compelled by this project idea. It’s the same reason why I’m so enamored with natural history museums in the first place. This diorama, and our museum collections, function to create and maintain a universally owned legacy.
This project allowed us the opportunity to contribute to a history that is beyond any one individual, and spans almost a century of time. Today, we continue to consult Carl Akeley, a character who has been dead for ninety years, because he truly was a pioneer in this field, and his craftsmanship is still highly regarded. Our exhibits staff researchers and artists looked back many decades into the Field Museum’s history to learn more about artists and designers who came after Akeley, to make sure the techniques and materials used for the hyena diorama were in line with the wishes and intentions of those who began constructing the Hall of Asian Mammals back in the 1920s and 30s. And now, we’re able to use technologies available to us today to hone those practices. We contributed to improvements in conservation, we’ve utilized software that told us the exact star pattern in the sky for this moment in time, and we can rely on new knowledge about these animals that was unknown when the specimens were first collected.
Legacy is about the fact that our scientists care, in meticulous detail, about the exact shape and texture of the ball of dung that is being rolled by the tiny, mighty dung beetle in the front of this scene.
The very, very sad reality of why accuracy matters so much for dung balls and the beetles who roll them in museum dioramas is because there’s an exponentially growing threat of this scene not existing outside of Museums in another hundred years. What drives me to do the work that I do is knowing that I alone can’t stop that from happening, but I will do whatever I can to make sure we remember, share, and admire these moments in time, so generations from now children and adults can walk down this hall and become intrigued by what is naturally intriguing, and express curiosity for what is inherently curious. And your contributions to this project are the ultimate assurance that I am not alone in this idea of wanting to create compelling legacies that can be enjoyed and appreciated by hundreds of thousands of visitors to The Field Museum, and by just as many more who have gotten to know us through a twitter feed and YouTube interface. And that is certainly something to celebrate.
Some one has seen Jurassic Park a few too many times.
A volunteer came in to the reception desk at the science center I worked at in warning me that a lady was coming in with an odd donation, despite the fact that he had warned her that a) we were not a collecting institute, and b) she was wildly inaccurate about her “specimen."
I agreed to talk to her, and a lady (who by all appearances, seemed the type who had a LOT of fun in the 1960s), came into the reception area. She was extremely excited and insisted that, while in her garden, she had uncovered the fossil of a of previously unknown TINY T-REX species.
I looked at this henceforth unknown “Tiny T-Rex” skeleton she had unearthed.
It was a mouse skeleton.
I tried to explain this by pointing out that the bones were much too fresh to be fossils, and our part of the country had been under water during the Cretaceous periodanyway…
But she wasn’t having any of it. I finally gave her a free pass so she could go show it to our Paleo Educator who hopefully would be seen as having more authority in these matters.
This episode of Shelf Life focuses on the very practical problem of transporting a rare giant squid specimen. But long before they were a quandary for customs officials, these mysterious cephalopods fueled folklore all over the world. They’re not alone—many storied beasts took shape around seeds of reality. While they may not breathe fire, heal disease, or crush ships, the animals that inspired their mythological counterparts are no less fantastic. Season 02 of Shelf Life premieres November 1.
A life-sized fiberglass model of a Tyrannosaurus rex arrives at Museum of Science in Boston on April 10,1972. The model was transported on a truck from the studios of the New York sculptor to its new home at the museum’s newly constructed West Wing. The John Hancock Tower can be seen under construction across the Charles River. Photo by TED DULLY
We like to think of microbial life as dirty, germy, bad nasty microscopic organisms that cause disease and illness. While it’s true that some microbes are not chiefly beneficial to us, we couldn’t live without the vast majority that ensure we are healthy and well-functioning.
It’s pretty wild to think about all of the different species of microbes and how they specialize on different organisms. Take Dr. Corrie Moreau’s work on ants, for instance: she’s primarily interested in their unique gut microbes, and how those organisms evolved along with their ant hosts over millions of years. In this episode, she shows us how she dissects various parts out of ants in order to do further analysis in the lab.
So, the next time you think of yourself as an individual, give a nod to the billions of microorganisms that help make you, you!
On a day designated for celebrating Museums, we invite you to dive deep inside the Museum’s collection to discover the past, present, and future of our approximately 33 million artifacts and specimens with Shelf Life, this new series with original monthly videos.
Learn how we prepare specimens in episode 3, Six Ways to Prepare a Coelacanth:
In episode 4, a new species is discovered in the Museum’s drawers:
The most recent episode of Shelf Life takes a look at the tiniest fossils, foraminifera, and the insights they give us into our Earth’s past:
People frequently ask why it is still important for Museums to collect physical specimens. Collections Dean Scott Schaefer answered:
“[Physical specimens] often represent the only tangible snapshot we have of life on Earth. You might say, “You can sample the genome of a specimen. You can take a photograph of a specimen, won’t that be sufficient?"
Well, the answer is no. It might be adequate. Those might be excellent photographs. That might be one kind of representation, if you talk about a genome sequence, for example. But it isn’t necessarily sufficient to answer all the types of questions that could potentially be asked about that biodiversity at that place and at that time. So today, it’s just as essential to collect and acquire information about the remaining biodiversity of life on earth as it was 145 years ago when the Museum began building collections.”
Today’s Fossil Friday is an exquisite mammal that lived during the time of dinosaurs!
This Deltatheridium pretrituberculare specimen was uncovered in the Gobi Desert by the Museum’s Central Asiatic Expedition team in the 1920s. More complete specimens discovered in the 1990s support the theory that marsupials—while most diverse today in South America and Australia—may have first evolved in Asia.