Thursday, April 21, 2022

Natural History Museum is treasure trove in San Diego's Balboa Park

A patron pauses outside the San Diego Natural History Museum, where fans of nature and the natural world are treated
to a variety of exhibits which inspire to visit and appreciate nature and the diversity of the San Diego region.

 

A long extinct shark, whose teeth were found near
Oceanside, Calif., greets visitors in artful replica.

ARTFUL EXHIBITION SPACE IS A HIGHLIGHT OF A VISIT TO SAN DIEGO'S BEAUTIFUL BALBOA PARK



STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

THE SAN DIEGO Natural History Museum makes for a great family outing.
A magnificent dinosaur skeleton, bears, elephants and
more await inspection, framed by colorful murals.
Affectionately nicknamed "The Nat," it's also perfect for visitors looking to get a feel for our region, for  
couples seeking an educational yet fun outing, or for a single person who wants a beautifully curated stroll for a look at life as it continues to evolve and change in southern California and the Baja California peninsula.
First, there's a remarkable Moreton Bay Fig Tree gracing the lawn in front of the museum -- planted in 1915 for the city's famous Panama-California Exhibition. Inside, visitors tilt heads upward to gaze at a realistic looking replica of an extinct megalodon shark, inspired by teeth collected from Miocene sandstones in Oceanside, California, and near Ensenada, Baja California.
Minerals are "hidden"
throughout the museum.




WE WATCHED people posing for animated selfies in the atrium there, and knew we were in for a treat by the pleased comments of visitors coming and going.
Evolution and diversity are what this well established museum is about.
Founded in 1874, the San Diego Society of Natural History is the oldest scientific institution in southern California, and the third oldest west of the Mississippi.
The name was tweaked as the building and ambitions grew and the Society grew from a small group of natural history lovers and collectors to a large museum with 8 million specimens, spectacular outreach programs, and award-winning exhibitions.
So for nearly a century and a half, the organization has delighted and educated hundreds of thousands of us.
Bruce Keller, left, with Sue and John Speight,
and Christene "Cookie" Meyers, in Balboa Park.
WE TOOK GUESTS,  a pair of history buffs from York, England.  They're natural history museum aficionados, having visited some of the great ones around the world: Vienna, Cambridge, London, Dublin, Geneva. Our San Diego treasure, they noted, is no slouch, compared to the others these world travelers have seen.
For 150 years, the organization has studied, protected, and introduced people to nature's wonders. Its museum  doesn't disappoint. Exhibits span five levels with a sparkling and clever "hidden gems" display starting in a small corner of the basement, then appearing on a corner of each floor, thus the "hidden" moniker. On up to the ground entrance floor, or Level 1, as it's called, for several learning labs about various topics including your own back yard. A wonderful movie theater shows three revolving films. We picked "Dinosaurs of Antarctica" -- thoroughly entertaining.   We followed this fascinating creature from Permian through Jurassic periods -- emerging from his south polar landscapes hundreds of millions of years ago.
The museum's open, airy expanse offers a pleasant
perspective and draws the eye upwards and around.
WATCHING AN engaging film with friends about our own planet and the creatures who struggled for survival gave us fodder for dinner conversation later in the day, as we pondered the emergence of giant mammals, fierce carnivores, gentle vegetarian giants and the scientists who work to understand the effect of the ice continent's transformation on us.
Two other films rotate -- and both won praise from viewers and fellow museum enthusiasts we met.
A grade-school teacher with her charges said "The Story of Earth" had her class spellbound. "It takes the planet from dying stars, through collisions in space into the world we know today -- with life forms unknown elsewhere in the universe."  All with beautiful special effects, she said, and dialogue that kept easily distracted kids entertained.
"Ocean Oasis" is the third film, which takes viewers on a journey through two seemingly opposite worlds -- Mexico's Sea of Cortes and the great Baja California desert.
A beautiful fig tree graces the lawn in front of the museum.
The stately tree is one of the oldest in California.
OTHER EXHIBITS include "The Living Lab," a display popular with curious youngsters and others of us who love critters.  We viewed lizards, snakes, scorpions and more; "Coast to Cactus" shows the diversity of this corner of California where a person can surf in the ocean, hike in the desert and ski on a hilltop in the same day. 
There's a wonderful dinosaur skeleton replica -- cast from bones found in Utah; 200 (count 'em!) skulls of every kind, a lovely California flowers photo display, fossils and "Cool Stuff From Storage," which shows off intriguing items from the archives. An  exhibit on Baja is coming soon.
A fascinating exhibit on amazing discoveries
by ordinary people caught Cookie's attention.
The museum is respected for its outings and video offerings: A "Virtual Live Lesson: Earth Wants You" is Friday, April 22, at 10 a.m. "Nature Hike: Pacific Crest Trail - Eagle Rock," is Sunday, April 24, at 9 a.m.; "Nat Talk: Picture a Scientist," is Thursday, April 28, at 6:30 p.m.; "City Nature Challenge" is Friday, April 29, at 3:41 p.m.; "Nature Hike: Oakoasis Preserve, Oak Grove Trail," is May 7 (check the museum for time.)
    The popular "Nat Talks"  feature museum staff and other experts speaking on the latest in scientific research, history, conservation, and the natural world.
    The museum's website is a good place to confirm times and get a wealth of information about changing exhibits and outings. Remember that residents can visit Balboa Park museums free on rotating days throughout the month. 
    sdnat.org
 
Bruce Keller admires a mural at Hilo, Hawaii's famed
Lyman Museum and Mission House, which takes
visitors on a colorful, engaging tour of the islands' history.
UP NEXT
: While we're visiting world class museums, check out this one -- even if only by "armchair travel." In Hilo, Hawaii, the Lyman Museum and Mission House takes visitors into the natural and cultural history of the Hawaiian Islands with over 20,000 square feet of stunning galleries. Affiliated with the Smithsonian, the two-part museum includes fascinating exhibits and a 19th Century Mission House. Volcanoes, wildlife, sea life, nature habitats and more await. Meanwhile remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekly for a fresh spin on the arts: www.whereiscookie.com


1 comment:

  1. Escondido RegularsApril 23, 2022 at 8:51 AM

    This museum is a delight. We've seen many of the world's great natural history museums and the eclectic collection here is worth an afternoon, easily.

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