Sunday, February 11, 2007

Monkey Bob Visits a New Exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History

Today my wife Trudi and I visited the new Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins at The American Museum of Natural History in New York City. It was very impressive!

It was also the most popular exhibit at the Museum - even beating out the headlined Gold Exhibit.

The Hall of Human Origins is very well thought out. It is laid out in a meandering pattern that allows you to browse at whatever pace suits you. This design also optimizes traffic flow - an important consideration if you plan to visit on the weekend, when they get the most visitors. The floor plan lets visitors view many exhibits from three (and sometimes four) sides, thus minimizing the wait time to get close to the displays. Even with a lot of people in the area, I still enjoyed the experience and did not feel that I was being crowded or that I was being denied access to the information.

The Curators for The Hall of Human Origins are Ian Tattersall, Ph.D. and Rob DeSalle, Ph.D. Ian's research interests include "human evolution, particularly the recognition of species in the human fossil record and the determination of their relationships, as well as integration of the human fossil record with evolutionary theory." Rob's research focuses on "molecular evolution, population genetics, systematics and bioinformatics". Their credentials gave them an excellent background to create and support this exhibit.

One of the coolest parts of the exhibit is a lab where visitors can collect and extract their own DNA, using swabs of saliva collected from the visitors' cheeks. My work involves molecular biology, and I have always thought of this as a very complicated process. However this lab simplifies the process so that regular people can understand the concept of DNA and molecular biology. That was very impressive! As Albert Einstein once said - “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.”

This display contains enough information to justify multiple visits. If you are interested in the history of ancient man, then I believe that you will very much enjoy the Hall of Human Origins!

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