B.S. in Evolutionary Anthropology with a minor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Year of Memory: 1998-2012
I’ve written a version of this comic several times, first starting freshman year of high school, and most recently last year at the age of 25. I have so many memories of the museum, it is impossible to narrow to just one and even harder to condense into a 3-page comic. The museum shaped me from a curious child into a professional scientific illustrator and I owe to it too many memories to ever put down on paper.
Year of Memory: 1999
Having been a graduate student in the Museum of Zoology from 1999 – 2005, the Ruthven Museum is at the heart of my whole Michigan experience.
In the winter of 1999, I came to visit campus as a prospective graduate student, and after my shuttle from the airport dropped me off in front of the Michigan League, I proceeded straight to the museum to meet with faculty. Within the first few minutes of browsing the exhibit museum, I decided that the University of Michigan was the place for me. I had a strong and immediate sense of belonging.
I have many wonderful memories from both the exhibit museum and the research wings, but perhaps my favorite is from one of the times I was leaving the museum at 2am after an evening of researching bat behavior for my dissertation. As I was walking in the basement hallway, about to return home for the night, a bat flew past my head. At first this didn’t register as odd, because I’d just left a room full of my own research subjects three floors up. But then it occurred to me that the basement hallway was not where I should be seeing a bat fly around. Too lazy to return to the 3rd floor to get my butterfly net, I successfully used my baseball cap to catch the bat mid-flight (on the first try!). It was not one of my research subjects, but instead a local big brown bat that had made its way inside, and who was trying to find his way out. I was glad to oblige him.
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! 🙂
Year of Memory: 1998
I was in a PhD program in the museum (so many stories I could share!) and my daughter, pictured here, loved to spend school days off at the museum with me. I would give her $1 for the vending machine – as it was a great and slightly scary adventure to take the elevator into the basement there – and she would take her drawing supplies and go out into the exhibits to draw. My daughter is now a scientific illustrator working for the University of Chicago, so this was transformative!
Year of Memory: 1977
When I was in first grade, we had a field trip scheduled for my first visit. I probably loved dinosaurs more than anything, and got so excited I threw up all over my desk. I was so sad when I was sent home, my mom drove me herself to Ann Arbor to meet the class because she knew I wasn’t sick, just too excited. And I’ve been coming ever since, with classes, on my own, as a student, and now here, on the Last Day, with my 4 year old daughter. I hope her memories are as great as mine. You will be missed.
Alumni Husband: Brian Carlson, General Studies, 2001
Year of Memory: every visit
Every time we visit, every time, our kids (ages 8 and 4) run to the back corner of the main gallery and pose like the deinonychus. We have pics from every single visit, when they were little up to now which is at least 20+. No idea who started it but it’s a tradition. Can’t leave the museum without doing it.
Year of Memory: 2017
I used to visit the Natural History Museum frequently when I was in elementary school, particularly when the museum hosted its annual Halloween party. It was always a fun time, getting to hang out with dinosaurs on the Saturday before Halloween. Over the years, I’ve noticed the games have changed quite a bit. I remember one time where I had to stick my hand in a pumpkin filled with cold spaghetti and sliced grapes just to get a handful of candy. I don’t think I saw this game in 2017 when I photographed the Halloween party for the Michigan Daily.
Nevertheless, the Natural History Museum has had a tremendous impact on my life. Most importantly, it got me interested in the natural sciences, which I am currently pursuing at the University of Michigan.
Year of Memory: 1994
During the stresses of finals in my first winter semester at U of M, I found myself returning to the Museum I had such fond memories of as a child. The feeling of peace and belonging that settled over me as I walk between exhibits that had thrilled me as a child was astounding. This had been the first place I had ever seen dinosaurs outside of books. Looking down at the dinosaur and mastodon displays from the railing was like returning to that childhood exhilaration of that first time seeing these massive beasts.
I left the Museum that day with a sense of calm. During my time at the university, I would return whenever I needed the reset. Later, I would bring my children there to share with them this magic building.
Year of Memory: 1960’s
My two sisters and I spent so much youthful time exploring the Natural History Museum. Our grandfather, who had long since passed before our births had designed the building. Oddly, I don’t remember our parents being there. Seems we walked less than a mile to get there from our home. There was a blessed freedom in the place. You could never see all the details in the displays. Never. So, we kept returning again and again.
There were rocks and gems. Bugs in amber. Colored lights illuminated one large quartz crystal. Seems I was hypnotized by the colors. There was a planetarium where in the darkness, stars captured my imagination.
There were bears outside at one time in a large cage. I remember their foul wild and captive odors.
The more pleasant fragrances could be found inside the museum building. My young nose loved the smell of Old history mixed with pure marble.
The staircase fit my little legs perfectly as I would grab on to the brass banister pulling myself past whatever smelly creature was alive in the cage. The bird displays…. I can still see them. Our dad told us that his mentor had prepared the tiny hummingbird skins. How was that humanly possible?
Of course, the best part of the visit was when we laid down our monies at the gift shop counter for a cool pencil filled with polished rocks. I can still hear the sound of those little rocks and see the bright colors.
The final event was to climb up on the pumas. I don’t remember the details of how we three young girls shared the pumas. Surely, we squabbled. We pretended to ride them, always convinced that they were put there for us by our Grandpa. How could he have known that we would arrive on the planet some ten years and more after his death? He must have imagined this.