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A Hilarious Behind-the-Scenes Tour of Montana’s Natural History Museum

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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The University of Montana’s natural history museum in Missoula is the “largest zoological museum in Montana and one of the major zoological collections of the Northern Rocky Mountains,” according to its website. Its collections hold 14,500 mammalian specimens, 7,000 birds, 3,200 fish, and 320 reptiles and amphibians. However, it’s different than the typical ideal of a natural history museum: unlike the one that employs me (the Smithsonian), it is primarily a research facility and not a place where a vacationing family would devote a day to wandering through a maze of exhibits on multiple floors.

Another thing that makes it stand out: Montana’s Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum only has two staff members.

Lucky for the museum, one of those staff members is Emily Graslie. Graslie first entered the museum to complete an independent study credit for her studio art major and never left. Now she is a volunteer curatorial assistant (you read that right: the museum’s only full-time staff member is a VOLUNTEER) while working on her masters in museum studies.

Graslie doesn’t just want to bury her face in bones and skins: she’s an articulate and hilarious educator. She just launched the first episode of The Brain Scoop, a new video series going behind-the-scenes at the museum. It’s witty and educational and wonderfully produced–and, like most things at their museum, runs on volunteered passion.

Watch the video to see many skulls and bones, learn about how animals are prepared for the museum, and find the best place to watch an orgy on campus.

Hannah Waters About the Author: Hannah Waters writes about natural history and the way people think about nature. She lives and works in Philadelphia, PA, but really on the internet. Follow on Twitter @hannahjwaters.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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