The Best Museum You Never Knew Existed is in Oklahoma City
You may have noticed a lack of Physics Philes for the past several weeks. That’s because I’ve been at the University of Oklahoma as a participant in their physics REU.
REUs, or Research Experience for Undergraduates, are great and if you have the opportunity you should definitely participate in one. But this post isn’t about that. It’s about this great little museum in Oklahoma City called the Museum of Osteology.
Osteology, if you don’t know, is the study of bones, their structure and how they function. So, as you may have figured out, this is a museum of bones, bones, and MOAR BONES. And it’s, quite frankly, the best place I’ve ever been.
When my partner and I drove up to the museum, we weren’t sure what to expect. It’s a rather small, unassuming building in almost the middle of nowhere. (Insert Oklahoma joke here.) When we walked in the door, it was no more impressive. Although they did have their beetles, which help clean the bones by eating away the flesh, on full display. So, good start.
But once we paid to get in and opened the doors to the museum proper, I was absolutely blown away.
The museum is only one room, but the shear number of skeletons packed into it is kind of staggering. We didn’t really know where to start, but once we got our bearings – and after we touched (!) the hippo and giraffe skeletons – we just dove in.
One of the features of this museum that pleasantly surprised me was how relentlessly and consistently it pointed out the evidence for evolution that exists in the function and structure of our bones. Signs like this one were not uncommon in this one-room museum.
This museum, though, didn’t just show perfect specimens. That would be boring! They had on display diseased bones. For example, there was an entire case of skulls of cats that either suffered trauma or some kind of disease, like osteoporosis or a dental abscess. Or, an unexpectedly large number of two-headed cows.
What appeared behind glass was amazing, but what hung from the ceiling was actually breathtaking. I’ve never seen a whale. It’s hard to grasp how big those must be. At least it was until I stood directly underneath a humpback whale skeleton.
There were a few whales hung on the ceiling, but none quite so majestic. Although, if I’m honest, my heart belongs to the West Indian Manatee, because manatees are adorable and I love them.
These are just a few pictures we managed to snap while being totally immersed in the study of bones. It was completely amazing and I can’t recommend it enough. (And, if you’re worried, the more exotic animals seem to have all died of natural causes.) If you happen to be in Oklahoma City, drop by. Heck, even if you’re just vaguely in the area you should drop by. You won’t regret it.
All photos courtesy of the author and Chris Tucker