Duncan R.

Year of Memory: 1990s-Today

The University of Michigan Museum of Natural History (UMMNH) is a place with many fond memories for me. It started out when I was a small child, before I started school. When she was about to run errands (such as going to the grocery store), my mother would tell me that I was allowed to choose one errand for us to run. I always chose the museum, so we went there practically every day. I found myself absolutely dazzled by the prehistoric skeletons, the taxidermy specimens, and the T.A.M. (Transparent Anatomical Mannequin).

Fast-forward from early childhood to my high school years, and I was still a frequent visitor. In fact, in sophomore year (2011), I took a one-on-on class with scientific illustrator John Megahan. In our sessions, Mr. Megahan taught me about the value of drawing from observation, the use of watercolor paints, and how shadows and markings should match the contours of animals’ bodies. I cannot thank him enough for taking the time to teach me. This class has increased my interest in pursuing scientific illustration further, and I still abide by these lessons while working on my own art today.

As such, I frequently used the specimens on display as reference for imaginary creatures such as werewolves and dragons. Even though they are figments of the imagination, I want to create believable anatomies and mannerisms. Therefore, I look at the monster’s real counterparts (i.e. wolves, reptiles) for visual reference.

However, creative work is not the only reason I’ve gone to the museum. Although I’m now old enough to go alone, and I’m not taking any classes here; I still bring a friend every now and then. I brought my old girlfriend here (I think it was on our second date?). I also took one of my more pessimistic friends to the museum, even though he never really showed interest in dinosaurs before. His interests seemed to be primarily drinking, heavy metal, and video games.

Although, to my pleasant surprise, he showed great enthusiasm about the Pleistocene bison horns, and he told me he was relieved there were no basilosaurus living in the Great Lakes.

Due to the impact the museum has had on my creative activities and personal life, I will certainly miss it when it’s closed for the year. However, I am also eager to see what the new museum will behold in 2019 (I am especially excited for the new majungasaurus skeleton).

I am very thankful for everyone who’s contributed to this wonderful place. Keep up the good work! 🙂

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