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The evolution of Exposition Park

July 3, 2010 |  7:00 am

Nat How do you squeeze 65 million years of mammalian history into an eye-popping, mind-bending, crowd-pleasing exhibition?

Not easily, even if you have a stellar collection of prehistoric specimens and a talented team of curators, scientists and designers who like to tell big stories with the help of interactive technology. Or if the showcase is part of a $107-million architectural restoration project.

But after years of planning, seismic retrofitting, construction and fine tuning, “Age of Mammals” will open July 11 at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County in Exposition Park.

It’s a giant step for a 97-year-old institution in the process of reinventing itself. The sweeping exhibition — tracking the evolution of mammals through epochal changes in geology and climate — will fill the dramatically renovated northern wing of the museum’s original building. The adjacent rotunda, meticulously restored to its former glory, will offer a provocative installation of historical curiosities and paintings of mammals through the ages by American artist Charles R. Knight.

“July 11 will be like a coming-out party for us,” says Jane Pisano, president and director of the museum. “This is an opportunity for us to re-present this institution to the public in a stunningly restored architectural space. We have done a lot of internal work, asking ourselves about the role of a natural history museum in the 21st century and what difference we can make in our community. These new galleries are the result of that.”

For the full Arts & Books story on the museum and the exhibition, click here.

-- Suzanne Muchnic

Photo: Exhibit showing a tiger, zebra and alpaca at the new Age of Mammals wing at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times