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Cleveland Museum of Natural History: All You Need To Know

As Marcus Garvey quoted, “A people without the understanding of their past history, foundation and culture are like a tree without roots.” Preserving the knowledge about our origin is as important as life itself. The Cleveland Museum of Natural History (CMNH) is another crucial institution that aims to preserve researchers’ findings of Nature

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History is a natural history museum that started in 1920 in Cleveland, Ohio, University Circle.  It began as an initiative by Cyrus S. Eaton to research and educate through collections in all fields of natural history. 

The first curator of this museum of natural history was Donald Johanson. It was at this time that Donald also discovered the skeletal remains of hominid Australopithecus afarensis, “Lucy.”

CMNH houses over 4 million specimens in all the scientific disciplines. Among the collections, there are striking discoveries that called for international attention. They include ‘Lucy,’ the ancient hominid, giant Cleveland Shale fish, and haplocanthosaurus delfsi dinosaur skeleton

Here are exhibits you must not miss to see at the Cleveland Museum of Natural history.

Plant Fossils Collection

Plant Fossil Museum
Image by WikiCommons

The plant fossils collection consists of 30,000 specimens. They were obtained from the University of Cincinnati by Shya Chitaley, the former curator.

These collections are the commitment of the department of Paleobotany & Paleoecology. The museum classifies them into three categories: the fossilized plants, the micro slides of pollens and delicate coal ball peels.

The access to these collections is free as long as it’s for non-commercial use. Otherwise, you have to get the approval of the curator. The view of these specimens mostly triggers many questions. Visitors may feel the need to get more details about the collections’ contents. Also, you have no need to worry because the curator is usually within reach to answer all questions.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that these specimens are a collection from various parts of the world. The museum gives more focus to some like fossil plants from the famous Pennsylvanian Period.


Mammoth And Mastodon Specimens

Columbian Mammoth
Image by WikiCommons

Without having visited the exhibit of Mammoth and Mastodon, these creatures only exist in storybooks. But in reality, both were living during the Ice Age. There are skeletons and fleshed-out creatures of Mammoth and Mastodon at the Cleveland Museum of Natural history.

This exhibit also allows you to delve deeper into the world of Ice Age. You get a virtual experience and walk-through diorama of these mammals. In fact, you can touch and examine them closely.

You will also get fantastic information about how these creatures survived. They were massive with as much as 8 tons and had tusks up to 16 feet long. Mammoth and mastodons lived for millions of years, surviving in a temperate climate. Nevertheless, they went extinct.

There is a lot of information that unfolds like the scientific method used to study the beasts. It’s an exhibit for all ages, and one your family will enjoy


Tyrannosaur Skull

Tyrannosaur Skull
Image by WikiCommons

CMNH holds a skull of a tyrannosaurid theropod dinosaur, which they collected from Hell Creek Formation. They are remains of tyrannosaurid dinosaur that lived about 66 million years ago. Hard to believe in such an existence. Isn’t it?

The museum study shows that this species was the last of the Non-avian dinosaurs that lived before extinction. The specimen is 5.2 meters long, a fact that created a lot of controversies. Many researchers came to dispute the research findings and launched their own to establish the actual facts.

Initial researchers showed that the Tyrannosaur skull belonged to an adult dinosaur. However, other new researchers like Thomas Carr indicated that it was a juvenile specimen of Tyrannosaurus rex.

Also, other skulls that belong to this same family were discovered later. You’ll find a complete juvenile tyrannosaur nickname ‘Jane.’


Monkey And Ape Skeletons

Monkey Skeleton Cleveland Museum
Image by WikiCommons

The Archeology department of the Cleveland Museum of Natural history maintains several collections of primate skeletons and fossil casts of hominoids. They are for use in different areas like pathology, evolutionary study, orthopedics, and prosthetic prototyping.

The exhibit is also free of access if the agenda for a visit is non-commercial. For those accessing it for other purposes, they have to obtain approval from the curator.

The museum acquired more than 1000 primate skeletons from taxidermy firm Gerrard & Sons of London and other private collection bases. These collections include the gorillas, orangutans, and chimpanzees—great apes.

When you walk into the museum’s osteological section, you’ll find this kind of collection classified as Hamman Todd Non-human primate. This is to credit Carl A. Hamann and T. Wingate Todd, who purchased them.

There’s also another section with 68 primate skeletons, the distinct ‘Cleveland Museum of Natural History Primate Skeletal Collection’; created by museum personnel.


Coelophysis Bauri Dinosaur Skeleton

Dinosaur Skeleton
Image by WikiCommons

This specimen is the oldest in the museum. This creature belonged to the late Triassic period. It was a period during which many of them died. The museum collected the Coelophysis Bauri Skeleton from Ghost ranch new Mexico in 1969.

The Cleveland Museum of Natural history used a lot of effort and time to prepare the mount on which you find at least three individual animals. However, it’s the best you can find in the world. So, what information does the museum has in store about this creature? Sure there is, and you learn that the adult could grow as big as 10 feet long. It could weigh 60 pounds.

Also, Coelophysis was an active predator with long hind limbs and tail. It had large eyes and elongated sharp head, sharp teeth, long forelimbs with three fingers.


Mineralogy Collections

Mineralogy Collections
Image by WikiCommons

The Cleveland Department of Mineralogy holds specimens from an extensive range of crystalline materials. There some from moon rock and meteorites (outer space) and others from the earth. There are also mineraloids like coal, amber, and opal.

Most of the specimens here are donations from Western Reserve and Heidelberg colleges and Case Institute of Technology. The benefit the public acquires from this reserve includes research, learning the earth’s history and also seeing the natural beauty in specimens.

It will surprise you to find that some of these specimens are available for loan. However, it’s only loaned to those who need them for non-commercial services. The museum will also inspect the detailed outline of your project. It requires you to reveal your methodology for examining the specimens.

A Collection Of Devonian Fish Fossil

Devonian fish fossil
Image by James St. John on flickr

The Cleveland museum of natural history preserves the best and the rarest Dunkleosteus Terrell fossils. They belonged to fierce prehistoric sea predators during the Devonian age. Therefore, these sea creatures ruled the subtropical waters and overpowered even the sharks.

You’ll also find this specimen in Cleveland Shale. The Dunkleosteus Terrell name also nicknamed ‘Dunk’ features the former museum curators Dr. David Dunkle and Jay Terrell, who unearthed these fossils in 1867.


Taxidermy Remains Of Balto The Sled Dog

Balto Cleveland Museum History
Image by Dan Coulter on flickr

This specimen is a unique one as it arrived at the Cleveland museum while alive. Balto and his companions were brought in a heroic welcome. You might wonder why. Back in their original residence, they were involved in a serum run.

In 1925, there was a diphtheria outbreak in Nome, Alaska. Only a team of dogs could travel to Nome through Iditarod Trail; a path used for carrying mail from Anchorage. The trip would usually take a month. However, this was an outbreak that requires quick attention.

So, a relay of sled dogs was used to combat the urgency and delivered the serum in six days. After Balto’s arrival in Cleveland’s zoo, he lived for five years and died. To this day, the dog’s husk is mounted in the museum’s permanent collection.


Hamann-Todd Human Osteological Collection

Cleveland Osteological Collection
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Here you’ll find a collection of over 3,000 human skeletons. Quite scaring, isn’t it? They were a collection of Carl A. Hamann and T. Wingate Todd hence the naming of the exhibit. Alongside the collection (made between 1912 and 1938), there is superb documentation that remains the world’s largest-ever for human remains.

There is essentially a lot to learn from these human skulls. This collection plus the Dudley Peter Allen Pathological Collection teaches about various bone diseases that affected the ancient man. In particular, these are the disorders that appeared before the 1920s. And, that was before the discovery of antibiotics.


Australopithecus Afarensis skeleton

Lucy Cleveland Museum
Image by Cleveland Museum of Natural History

According to scientists, Australopithecus Afarensis is a human ancestor who lived 3.2 million years ago. ‘Lucy’ is the name nicknamed this partial skeleton that became the icon of paleoanthropology. The skeleton was unearthed in 1974 from the Afar desert of Ethiopia. During the time of discovery, this partial skeleton was the oldest and most composed of all ancient human ancestors found.

This gallery indicating the human origin and featuring Lucy was launched in 2013. The specimen appears as a skeletal mount and as a sculpted construction. 

All in all, there has been a tremendous improvement in the museum over the years. Between 1940-1975, the museum operated the Cleveland zoo. This lead to the establishment of the Cleveland aquarium, which operated until 1985. Other developments included Holden Arboretum, Trailside Museums, and others around surrounding counties.

With the museum’s initial focus being to educate, educational programs have been there since inception. The Cleveland Museum of Natural history has also established an education department. It was created the sixth week after its commencement. Apparently, it was the first in America. Also, the program it created became a learning curriculum for all ages.

The Cleveland museum of natural history is a well of discovery. Visit it to carry home a compendium of knowledge. The museum opens Monday to Saturday from 10.00 to 17.00 and on Sunday from 12.00 to 17.00.

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