Thursday, 3 September 2009

Mythical Beasts at the Museum!

I visited the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau-Hull, Quebec this past weekend, and was quite impressed with their feature exhibition - Mythical Beasts: Dragons, Unicorns and Mermaids (on until September 20th).

This exhibition - organized by the American Museum of Natural History, in collaboration with The Field Museum, Chicago; The Canadian Museum of Civilization; The Australian National Maritime Museum, Sydney; and the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Atlanta - divides the featured creatures into their respective 'realms' of water, earth, and air, along with an extra section on dragons (who can pretty much handle all three, presumably).

The exhibition does a good job of showing how unusual animals or phenomena occurring in the natural world may well have been responsible for many of these legends and myths; how the sinus cavity of a dwarf elephant skull might translate as a cyclops' eye socket, for example, or how the way that dolphins jumping in sync might well example reports of huge sea snakes.

Along with the admittedly hokey plaster models of unicorns and the like (an understandable move given that children are more likely to enjoy a life-size unicorn, rather than a drawing or other representation), there were historical curios such as the Fiji Mermaid on display, and a rotating calendar of related experts and performers.

Although the exhibition has already been presented in some of the museums aforementioned, I shouldn't wonder if the Museum of Civilization didn't add some CanCon in the form of many Canadian myths & legends - Ogopogo and Sedna, to name but two.

For anyone seeking more, I encourage exploration of the AMNH's exhibit resources, as they seem to be different (and frankly more in-depth) than the resources of the Museum of Civilization.

Below I include some crappy photos I took before one of the people working there asked me to stop.

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