austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

When you were a tadpole and I was a fish

So the Saturday before Christmas we made a trip to Ann Arbor. Not for the usual things, either. We had to get to the University of Michigan's Ruthven Museums Building. The Museum of Natural History there was closing at the end of December, and being moved along with the university's other museums into a big new building. This would be bunny_hugger's farewell visit to one of those big exciting places that area schoolchildren are bussed to. Also, while we could expect that the exhibits would be moved over, their settings wouldn't necessarily be. She wasn't sure but thought that, like, there were dioramas and plaques explaining what people thought about natural history when they were made, in the 50s and 60s and stuff. That's an extremely long time ago, scientifically. This would surely be the last chance to see hilariously out-of-date plaques declaiming on the origins of mammals and stuff like that.

The Ruthven museum building was put up in 1928, so it's got these lovely Art Deco touches. Little squares embedded in the building showing off natural or mythological creatures, exotic plants, Poseidon, that sort of thing. A front door surrounded by those frieze patterns. Flanking either doors are bronze pumas on pedestals. They're decade-old replacements of the original terrazo pumas installed in 1940. I'm assuming they're staying there as the building gets renovated and the museum leaves for its new home.

The entrance hall is one of those enormous, two-storey, circular plazas with a domed ceiling featuring inset panels of natural history stuff and, oh, you just know whatever the new place is like won't have an entrance hall like that. I mean, classic Greek-style columns.

We went first over to the gift shop, in case some final souvenir would be irresistible. We would come back to look more carefully about an hour later, because I mis-read the hours and thought the gift shop closed earlier than it did. (It stayed open later on weekends than on weekdays, though the museum stayed open to later hours on the weekdays, for the reasons I suppose?) When we returned bunny_hugger would buy a fossil. I would keep looking at some raccoon plushes but didn't get anything, in the end.

The first room, and the biggest and most important one, was the Prehistoric Life Exhibit. Dusty, red-faded dioramas of animals around the watering hole. Sculptures of a snake around a clutch of eggs. Exhibition booths with fossils mounted on the all and surrounded by actual three-dimensional letters stuck to the wall. The typefaces are pre-Helvetica. (I'm not sure what typeface most of the exhibits were. Neuzeit S looks plausible, although the letters are rounded off on the ends, possibly a concession to the need for someone to affix this stuff to the wall without being stabbed by a corner.) A petrified tree trunk from California, set against a faded turquoise wall. A figurine of a sabertooth attacking a giant ground sloth in a diorama labelled ``Life 15 thousand years ago in California''. It promised to be exactly what we'd hoped for.

Trivia: Over six hundred exhibitions and performances (visual, literary, film, and performing arts) were presented over five weeks as part of the 1988 Calgary Olympic Arts Festival. Source: Encyclopedia of the Modern Olympic Movement, Editors John E Findling, Kimberly D Pelle.

Currently Reading: The Urban Bestiary: Encountering he Everyday Wild, Lyanda Lynn Haupt.

PS: And hanging out around Easter! Also checking on a letterbox we'd planted.


bunny_hugger's parents' dog, out on a walk, and not the least bit happy about me being around or still being around, really.


Doesn't mean the little basset hound can't hustle when she means to, though. Look at those ears.


Historical plaque at the park in Albion, Michigan, which would seem to make a clear and verifiable claim. Wikipedia says the origins of T-ball are disputed and there's at least four major claimants to being the origin of the sport.

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