Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Modern LA County Natural History Museum

The Los Angeles County Natural History Museum of my youth was a sad place, full of gracelessly aging dioramas with stuffed animals in desperate need of attention. Despite the ragged exhibits, I was captivated by the dark halls, the drama of the taxidermy exhibits--preditors with their teeth barred, ready to pounce on an unsuspecting rodent.

Thanks to thoughtful restoration, the dioramas of today are beautiful. My oldest son walks through the halls holding my hand. Pointing his free hand to the ground he tells me, "Mom, we should make our living room look like this."

Personally, I can't get enough of the bird exhibits on the second floor. And I'm partial to the "LA Backyard" diorama depicting the intersection of man/woman and wildlife, an exhibit I don't remember from my youth. By the glow of pool light, a coyote has captured a pet cat. Above the kill, a parrot eats from a bird feeder. In the distance, the moon rises and LA's downtown skyline crops up between mountains of scrub chaparral.

It seems so honest.

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