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Arizona Museum of Natural History, Part 2

Petrified Dunes Arizona Highways is is an award-winning, renowned magazine that is published by (surprisingly) the Arizona Department of Public Safety — which is the agency that houses the Highway Patrol, Criminal Investigation, Agency Support and Criminal Justice Support — with subscribers all over the world. And you thought the government couldn't do anything right!

The magazine is known for their photography and they supplied a number of photographic enlargements of scenic spots in Arizona as part of the exhibits at the Museum of Natural History.

I do not think that a photo of a photo is the best way to experience the spectacular view provided by these wonderful shots — but for many of you this will be as close as you can get to see them. This photo is of the Petrified Dunes taken by Jack Dykinga.

August Sunset This second example is August Sunset at Cape Royal, North Rim, Grand Canyon National Park and was taken by Gary Ladd. Coincidentally, the current issue of Arizona Highways caught my eye so I purchased a copy. They were featuring some wonderful B&W photos by Joel Grimes who uses battery powered strobes to augment the natural light — with really wonderful results. If you would like to see these examples, just click here.

The other thing that caught my eye in the magazine was an article on Film versus Digital. This has been a long-running debate among the best photographers — so Arizona Highways sent out two photographers, one using digital and one using film.to shoot the same locations. And their conclusion? It is not the medium but the eye of the photographer! I could have told you that! But the article was interesting to understand the approaches that these two photographers used.

Stars Back to the museum, as I continued exploring, I began to see stars — or more accurately, a display that simulates the night sky. I did not have a tripod — and a flash is useless but I gave it a shot. I found that by intentionally moving the camera I obtained some interesting results. This one made the stars look like falling snow. Cool!

Meteorites Seriously, the star field led to the part of the museum devoted to what comes from space — here two meteorites that hit Arizona.

Holy Meteorite And another one that burned up its middle leaving a donut shape.

Geode Also on display were minerals such as Fool's Gold and this beautiful Geode.

Petrified Wood Did you know that Arizona is home to the Petrified Forest? Yep, it is a National Park east of Flagstaff and is full of fragments of fossilized wood (please don't take any). I have fond memories of exploring there with Kona and my parents, who came to visit some eleven years ago (or so). Curiously, if you drive all the way through the park, you end up in the Painted Desert. It's like two for the price of one.

PSI Sign Just for a change of pace, the museum features an exhibit sure to delight the kids (and the kid in all of us) — and yes, it is full of poop.

Fossil Poop Fortunately, most of it is either fossilized or simulated — this example was both, a replica of Hadrosaur fossil poop. There were only a few kids there the day I visited but they seem most delighted trying to match different piles of poop to the animal that produced it.

Elvis What seemed entirely out of place was Elvis the alligator. Yes, he is alive — perhaps four foot long and living in a small glass-covered pen. I can only speculate that as he gets bigger, he is going to need a new home.

Hunters As I moved through the exhibits, I also moved forward in time to when only Native Americans lived in what is now Arizona. These two figures are hunters trying to bring down a mammoth.

Interior Artifacts Their reconstructed home was nearby and held the few items that such people might have owned.

Suit of Armor Continuing forward in time we encountered the Spanish Conquistadors. Can you imagine wearing that suit of armor in the hot Arizona summer? Or in Mexico, for that matter?

Stage Coach One aspect of Arizona history was as a setting for many Westerns. John Wayne, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Montgomery Clift, William Boyd, Clark Gable, Clint Eastwood, Omar Sharif, Telly Savalas and many others have starred in films shot in Arizona. Much of the most photographed scenery in the state has served as backdrops for the movies. Therefore the Museum of Natural History presents a huge exhibit of props, posters and photos of the stars.

Panning for Gold The end of my tour took me outside to another exhibit designed to attract the kids — an artificial stream for panning for gold. As I mentioned, there were not many kids there that day, so unfortunately, no cute little panners today. Nice idea for a hands-on exhibit, I think.

In conclusion, the Arizona Museum of Natural History is quite interesting. Of course it is not as large and its collection is not as extensive as the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington. I still remember going there as a kid — and even at that age, I was very impressed by the Hope Diamond — as well as the two armed guards standing on either side of the display. But if you live in Arizona, especially if you have kids, do plan a trip to the museum — it is well worth your time.

 Life is good.

 B. David