Skeletons, mummies, blood-suckers, bizarre creatures, ghostly apparitions, dead animals, insects. Each is associated with Halloween. And they can be found at the Yale Peabody Museum.
A brisk, October Saturday found me heading down to New Haven with my nine year-old daughter and three year-old son. The Peabody is housed in an ornately-styled, Gothic-inspired stone building.
My son was the first to notice the dinosaur prints embedded in the walkway. He followed them right to the highly detailed torosaur statue in the front of the building. The garden area surrounding the torosaur is becoming a model of with ancient plants.
After paying, we went to the right of the register and walked past the gift shop into the Native American display. We missed this section the last time we came. After the Native American exhibit is an exhibit on the findings that support the Theory of Evolution and then the fossils from the Ice Age (yep–just like the movie) with a mastodon, saber-tooth cat, and even a sloth.
Then we entered the main hall that houses the tyrannosaurus rex skull, the stegosaurus skeleton, and the apatosaurus (which used to be a brontosaurus if you are as old as I am). The apotosaurus is impressively large.
Although the Invasion of the Bloodsuckers had the pests we have to deal with regularly, like ticks and mosquitoes, modeled in a huge scale. It was like having a 3-D microscope where you could see all of the detail.
Fish Inside Out has ghostly x-ray images of fish both familiar and new. My daughter enjoyed finding fish she recognized. Along with the x-rays were a few specimen jars. Yep–creepy!
The third floor has meteorites (including one that landed in someone’s house right in Connecticut) and minerals. The beauty of the facets and colors were on full display. My favorite part? The beautiful jewelry. Great inspiration this close to Christmas.
The kids were impressed with the large, North American mammals and the dioramas. They enjoyed seeing how the materials in the display were matched to the photo and murals of the backgrounds. Almost as much as they enjoyed posing as if the big bears were going to attack them.
We read the animals that were listed in the Southern New England diorama and tried to find them all. Since I’m not a naturalist, it was hard to figure which bird was which. The descriptions could really benefit from a small picture or illustration to go along with the animal names.
The kids were desperate to get into the Egyptian exhibit. We spent very little time looking at the birds of Connecticut, though the dodo is always good for a laugh. I thought the insect display that shows the families of insects was very educational and really showed the commonalities.
We learned a lot about the mummies (yes–more than one). The Peabody has two human remains and two mummies made from animals. One of the remains is an intact woman dead for thousands of years. The other mummy is of a young king who was “disposed of” because of his bad leadership.
We saved the Discovery room (the ‘please touch’ portion of the museum) for last. There were ants, taxidermy examples, skeletons of small animals, hissing cockroaches and more. Drawers were full of items that can be explored. My three year-old like using the magnifying glasses that were available. My nine year-old spent a lot of time watching the snake and bearded lizards.
Around the musseum, the Peabody had docents with “please touch” displays. We explored the cast of a t-rex tooth and even touched coprolite (fossilized dinosaur dung). The North American mammal display had skull reproductions which helped us learn how scientists figure out whether an animal is a meat eater, vegetable eater, or omnivore based on their teeth. The kids also used hieroglyph stamps to record their names in the Egypt room.
We had a great time. We spent five hours at the museum, including a special presentation with Atka the Wolf from the Wolf Conservation Center which lasted an hour, and we really couldn’t spend any more time there. So save yourself some cash and eat lunch at home. If you plan to get to the museum at 12:30 to 1 pm, since it is open until 5, you should still have time to enjoy all of the exhibits. Also, search for coupons on-line. I found one that gave me free admission for one child with a paid adult.