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Natural History Museum to open 'Age of Mammals' exhibition in newly restored 1913 Building

March 2, 2010 |  6:29 pm

Polar Bear-6108 cropThe Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County will open its newly restored 1913 Building in July with “Age of Mammals” -- an exhibition that’s been 65 million years in the making.   “This is the first permanent museum exhibit to trace the history of evolution -- from the extinction of the dinosaurs to the rise of humans -- within the context of epochal changes in the Earth’s geology and climate,” says  John Harris, the Natural History Museum’s head of vertebrate studies and chief curator of the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits.

“We believe this new way of telling our story is not only exciting and illuminating but provides a powerful message for people today about climate change and human impact on our environment.”

 “Age of Mammals” will fill one wing of the 1913 Building with a mix of ancient fossils, modern specimens and interactive multimedia. Visitors can learn how violent movements of the great land masses radically affected global temperatures and weather patterns and how these changes created new environments -- and opportunities -- that allowed a diverse array of mammals to develop.

They also can get a close look at the La Brea horse, Simi Valley mastodon, saber-toothed cat and the ancient horned brontothere (“thunder beast”). Suspended overhead will be aquatic mammals, including a sea lion and a sperm whale.

BrontothereOne major installation will show how certain types of African apes began to walk on two feet, use tools and eventually evolve into the humans of today -- and how decisions made by these humans may affect the future of all mammals.

The exhibition also will explain how scientists reconstruct Earth's history, including one display that “re-imagines” what locations around L.A. may have looked like over the past 40 million years.

“Age of Mammals” will open on July 11, along with the Haaga Family Rotunda Galleries, which will house rotating exhibits. These are the first phases to be completed in a $91-million project that began in 2006 and includes the restoration, renovation and retrofitting of the 1913 Building, the Exposition Park museum’s original home, as well as the creation of exhibitions.

A new dinosaur hall is scheduled to open in 2011, followed by a permanent exhibition about Southern California's natural and cultural history in 2012. The Natural History Museum will celebrate its centennial in 2013.

-- Karen Wada

Related story:

Natural History Museum modernizes 1913 building, looks to the future

Photo: A polar bear, top, an example of an animal endangered by climate change, is among the ancient and modern mammals included in the Natural History Museum's new exhibit; Credit: Karen Knauer.

Below, a brontothere or “thunder beast” specimen.  Courtesy: NHM of Los Angeles County.