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Fear and Loathing at the Utah Museum of Ancient Life: About the Merchant

"But why's a ducks head green?" an old man asked. "Why ain't it blue, or white? It's as green as the day is long, and ain't nobody know why."

A long pause set on our tour guide, a 19 year old intern with brown shoulder length hair and eyes like it was her first day in this world.

"Perhaps science best answers the how, not why," she said.

The old man took off his hat and scratched his head.

We were sitting under the Tyrannosaurus Rex. It was fifteen--no twenty feet tall. It was yellow and its face looked toward the window. It was snarling.

There was a plaque at the front of the display. It was silver and official. It said "Here lies T-Rex, King of Beasts, Carnivore, Pea-Brain, dead of 75 million years. Survived by cockroaches."

Taped directly below the plaque was a handwritten note on a yellow piece of paper. It had insignia in the right corner 'Utah Museum of Ancient Life Official.' It said: "Due to recent advancements in scientific achievement--it has now been concluded that dinosaurs did indeed have feathers. Please be patient as we update our exhibits. Thank you sincerely, Museum Staff."

I looked up at the old man. He looked back at me.

I sat and thought, then continued walking. I walked across a white hallway with marble floors. There was another room. There were glass cubes with skeletons inside and people sat around them pointing and scrunching their faces.

I saw a bird exhibit. It had a plaque, too. It said"Bird of Paradise. Galapagos Islands, seen by Darwin on his famous adventure." The bird was green and red and blue. I thought it looked like a living rainbow. Below the plaque was some kind of translation, in seven different languages. I imagined it said no facts at all. I imagined instead it said "The world is colorful" in the seven different languages.

Above the bird there were signs on the wall. I noticed that everything in the Museum is written in short straight sentences. One space per word and no room for questions or notes on the side. I didn't see a single question mark, not anywhere.

When I was back home I thought more about what the old man said. I thought about the yellow note, too. I remembered my seventh grade biology class. Dinosaurs certainly didn't have feathers then. There weren't any question marks in our textbooks either. Just like the museum.

At the end of our tour the guide asked us what the favorite thing we learned was. Well I didn't answer then. But I think I learned about truth. It changes. I thought about Einstein, and my father. I thought about Van Gogh. Maybe the newest science and combination of herbs and enzymes would have kept his ear on his head. Or maybe he knew something we didn't. Maybe the world really is like 'Starry Night'. With blues and yellows and swirls. Maybe it isn't quite right, but its damn beautiful.

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Archives: Contributing Writer / Matthew Hargis (October 2nd, 2013)

+Matthew Hargis

North American Museum of Ancient Life
at Thanksgiving Point
3003 N Thanksgiving Way
Lehi, UT 84043
801-768-2300

 

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