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Capturing History Through Underwater Archaeology

Columbus cannonBy Dave Rust, Children's Museum Photographer and Video Producer

As the Museum's photographer and videographer, I need to capture imagery of everything, which means that I get the opportunity to see up-close a lot of the amazing things folks do around here. I never know what I might do next, or when I'll be handed traveling orders!  Would you believe that this summer I got the chance to visit the Caribbean Sea and the nation of the Dominican Republic—for work?

My trip’s objective: to capture video of Prof. Charles Beeker, our Extraordinary Underwater Archaeologist-in-Residence, as he leads Indiana University researchers on a search for clues to the Spanish galleon, Begoña, a ship that was lost to rocky shores and high winds in 1725.

The History of the Begoña

Prof. Beeker tells us that the Begoña and its captain were faced with a no-win situation 300 years ago. The Begoña’s Spanish passengers were especially enterprising…maybe too much so! They had mined silver in nearby Central America and wanted to bring it back to Spain without paying the King’s tax. So they hid sliver coins, jewelry, and table settings in trunks with false bottoms, and some of the bounty was even sewn inside their clothing. Their ship was so heavy, it sat too deeply in the water! Harbormasters wouldn’t let the Begoña into Santo Domingo waters to pick up supplies before the ship's big hop to Spain. They were afraid it’d get stuck in the shallows and plug the harbor’s entrance.

Out in deep water with no supplies and facing bad weather for days, the captain had to attempt a hard landing several miles east of the capital in order to protect the crew and passengers. Everyone got off alive, but the winds bashed the ship against the rocks until it broke into pieces. Almost all of that illegal baggage was lost under just 10 feet of water! But one trunk was pulled from the waves and everyone began the long walk back to Santo Domingo. When guards encountered the drenched passengers, they wondered why the group was even bothering to carry a bulky trunk all the way back to the capital. Guards took a look inside and the secret was out. The passengers and the ship’s captain faced serious legal penalties…despite the heroic efforts by the captain to save everyone’s lives.

What We're Discovering Today

I used an underwater camera to document SCUBA divers as they used pumps called dredges to remove layers of sand from the bottom of La Caleta inlet. As they dredged, objects long buried were revealed by the day’s bright sunlight. Since they’ve begun these exhibitions, divers have found many pounds of silver, table settings, swords, cannon balls, and musket balls.

During my trip, they uncovered one of the ship’s cannon (called “guns” when on deck). Another team thought they found a smaller deck gun (called a verso), though it was heavily encrusted with coral rock. Researchers will have to remove the coatings to see if it is indeed a ship’s weapon…or just a modern water pipe. Other divers were excited by objects that appear to have come from the local natives, the Taino. Pottery, especially bowls for carrying water and food, seem to be common finds in this bay. Prof. Beeker says this isn’t a surprise, since this beach was a part of a large native village for hundreds of years and has long since been abandoned.

After being pounded by the surf for hundreds of years, clay objects are usually found broken. The team also found a knob-like handle that probably came from a bowl. Experts on the team say this is often the case…with turtle heads being a common theme, but this one looks more like a person’s face to me. In any case, it's likely much older than artifacts from the Begoña.

Indiana University wants to learn everything it can about the Begoña.  When the research team is done, Prof. Beeker hopes to put many of the items on display underwater in the same inlet of La Caleta, creating an underwater museum for other SCUBA divers and snorkelers to explore. Some of the other artifacts—including a conglomerate of 18th century silver coins—are now on display at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. Now Hoosiers can see for themselves these clues about how people lived in the Caribbean so long ago.

The silver coins aren't the only new artifacts  on display in the working Archaeology Lab in the Treasures of the Earth gallery. There are also new Columbus-era cannons on view, centuries older than the Begoña. While most families' fall break plans may not include a trip to SCUBA in the Caribbean, you can still experience these extraordinary artifacts right here in Indianapolis!

Conserving Captain Kidd's Cannon

CannonBy Ashley Ramsey Hannum, Archaeology Lab Assistant

Have you been wondering if we would ever finish treatment on Captain Kidd’s cannon? You certainly wouldn’t be alone. Cannon #4 from Kidd’s Quedagh Merchant, which sank off the coast of the Domincan Republic in 1699, has been undergoing conservation treatment in the National Geographic Treasures of the Earth exhibit since 2011. The lengthy treatment, called electrolytic reduction, helps remove all of the salts that the cannon absorbed from 300 years in ocean water. The process also helps remove the thick layer of minerals and concretion that built up over that time. 

After years of conservation, the cannon is finally ready for the last stages of treatment. The first—and most challenging—step is boiling the cannon in highly purified water. The boiling water creates tiny bubbles inside the pores of the iron, helping to remove the final amounts of salt and minerals. 

You may be thinking, how does one boil a 1,500 pound, over 6 foot long piece of iron? Since we certainly don’t have a stove that big, we had to get creative. The Museum’s awesome facilities team had the idea to divert steam from one of the building’s giant boilers, typically used to heat the museum, through the water in the cannon’s tank. Theoretically, the heat from the steam should bring the water to a boil. 

We placed the cannon in an 8 foot long, galvanized steel water trough, designed for holding water for livestock. Steve, our HVAC extraordinaire, created some custom copper pipes, which brought steam from the boiler through the water. The steam took quite a long time to heat the water. Imagine how long it takes to boil about a gallon of water to make spaghetti. Well, we needed to boil 220 gallons of water to cover the cannon. It took almost 7 hours to bring it to a boil! 

After a couple weeks of intermittent boiling, all of the last salts were successfully extracted. The cannon is now soaking in an alcohol bath to dehydrate it without exposure to air. Once all of the water has been removed, it will be ready for its final coating and sealants. The cannon can then be safely stored in air without risk of rapid deterioration. 

New shipwrecked artifacts are now installed in the exhibit, and the process begins all over again!

Treasures of the Earth gallery manager, Josh Estes, visits Captain Kidd's cannon.
Cannon then

Conservator Christy O'Grady shares the cannon with visitors in the Wet Lab.

Christy and Ashley carry out final steps in the cannon's conservation treatment.

Cannon Cannon

Meet the Maiasaura—"Good Mother Lizard"

Maiasaura skull at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.

You’ve seen the dinos in Dinosphere– but have you ever taken the time to really get to know them? Well now’s your chance! In the Meet the Dinos blog series, you learn the behind the scenes story on all of your favorite dinosaurs, from their lives in the cretaceous period to their discoveries!

Who is the Maiasaura?

The Maiasaura is a composite skeleton, which means that it was made up of the bones of several Maiasaura. It is 70 percent real fossilized bone. The remaining bones are casts from other Maiasaura that have been discovered.
The Linsters—Cliff, Sandy, and their seven children, Brenda, Cliph, Bob, Wes, Matt, Luke and Megan—are a family of amateur paleontologists who hunt dinosaurs on their summer vacations. They found the fossilized bones that make up the Maiasaura in 1997 in Teton County, Montana. Dinosphere's gorgosaur and one Bambiraptor were found with the MaiasauraIt took five years to excavate the fossilized bones of the Maiasaura.

The Story Behind the Maiasaura

When paleontologist John Horner walked into a small rock shop in Bynum, Montana in 1978, he had no idea what he was about to find. The owners of the rock shop, the Brandvolds, showed him a coffee can full of little fossilized bones. Horner saw at once that they were fossilized baby dinosaur bones and asked where they were found. The Brandvolds showed him the site, which was later named "Egg Mountain" for the hundreds of eggs and nests excavated over many seasons. The Brandvolds, it turns out, had discovered a new species of dinosaur that John Horner named Maiasaura, meaning "good mother lizard." Horner chose that name because he believed the maiasaurs cared for their young.
What made him come up with this hypothesis? There were several clues. He studied baby Maiasaura skeletons and determined they couldn't walk just after hatching because they had soft fossilized bones. Bits of fossilized eggshell were also found, indicating hatchlings stayed in the nest long enough to trample their shells. Horner guessed that the baby Maiasaura probably stayed for about a month in the nest and depended on the adult Maiasaura to bring them food.
Maiasaura were herbivores, which means they ate plants instead of meat. They lived in the Late Cretaceous Period, approximately 80 million years ago, in North America. Maiasaura had a toothless beak for snipping plants and hundreds of teeth designed for chewing and grinding. Although its teeth were frequently worn down by all the chewing, replacing them was not a problem. Each tooth had four or five teeth growing and ready to replace it. Maiasaura needed its teeth so it could keep eating. It had to eat constantly to get enough food to maintain its weight. It probably had to eat many pounds of leaves, berries, seeds and woody plants each day to survive.
Maiasaura migrated, which means they moved to different places during different seasons, in search of food. They traveled in large herds of perhaps 10,000. Traveling in such a large herd helped protect them from predators, such as meat-eating gorgosaursMaiasaura were big. Adults were up to 30 feet long (as long as three basketball goals laid end-to-end), 12 to 15 feet tall, and weighed around 3 to 4 tons (6,000 to 8,000 lbs.). They walked on all fours, but they could also stand on two legs for feeding. Maiasaura had long, stiff tails that helped them keep their balance. Like hypacrosaurs, Maiasaura are called duckbill dinosaurs because their mouths are shaped like a duck's bill. Hadrosaur is another name for a duckbill dinosaur.

Want to learn more? Be sure to meet all of the dinos in Dinosphere!

Meet Dracorex Hogwartsia

Dracorex Hogwartsia at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.

You’ve seen the dinos in Dinosphere– but have you ever taken the time to really get to know them? Well now’s your chance! In the Meet the Dinos blog series, you learn the behind the scenes story on all of your favorite dinosaurs, from their lives in the cretaceous period to their discoveries!

Who is Dracorex?

Dracorex hogwartsia is a dinosaur that is new to science, and it bears a close resemblance to a fairy-tale dragon, with its bony head covered in spikes and knobs.
Dracorex belongs to the group of ornithischian dinosaurs called Pachycephalosaurs, or bone-headed dinosaurs. These dinosaurs were a group of plant-eating dinosaurs that are largely characterized by their distinct dome-headed skull. The group actually consists of both flat-headed forms and highly domed forms. They lived in both Asia and North America during the late Cretaceous Period, 95 to 65 million years ago.
DracorexDracorex is a unique addition to the paleontological record. Until now, no flat-headed Pachycephalosaur fossils have been discovered in North America. Further, no flat-headed dinosaurs with this unique configuration of knobs and spikes have ever been found. This new specimen suggests a significant new branch in the evolutionary development of the Pachycephalosaur family—much more complicated than paleontologists suspected.

“The discovery of this new flat-headed Pachycephalosaur was a total paleontological surprise,” said internationally-recognized paleontologist Dr. Robert Bakker. He added, “Dracorex is a scientifically significant milestone in the world of paleontology; it proves that family trees were still branching off and evolving, even near the end of the age of dinosaurs.  It demonstrated a world of color and movement in nature more recently than we ever thought possible.”
In a recent publication, scientists were able to closely describe this new species. “It is truly a magnificent specimen. You hardly ever find skulls of these dinosaurs in such a complete state,” said Dr. Robert Sullivan, the vertebrate paleontologist and senior curator at the State Museum of Pennsylvania. “This spectacular skull shows an amazing combination of primitive and advanced features. Its discovery has dramatically altered our view on the relationships of these strange pachycephalosaurid dinosaurs to other dinosaurs,” Sullivan added.
How do you name and completely new species of dinosaur?
A team of museum scientists officially named the new dinosaur species Dracorex hogwartsia, the “Dragon King of Hogwarts. The name celebrates Hogwarts School for Witchcraft & Wizardry, the academy for wizards in the Harry Potter novels.
“All of us dinosaur-hunters agree—it’s splendidly appropriate!” said Dr. Bakker, curator at the Houston Museum of Natural Science and a long-time friend of The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. “Dinosaurs are wonderful for getting kids to explore with their minds and exercise their scientific imagination. And that’s where Ms. Rowling excels too. Her books invite the reader to probe mysteries, solve riddles and learn the craft of fighting ignorance and evil,” Bakker added.
When hearing of this honor, J.K. Rowling stated:  "The naming of Dracorex hogwartsia is easily the most unexpected honor to have come my way since the publication of the Harry Potter books!  I am absolutely thrilled to think that Hogwarts has made a small claw mark upon the fascinating world of dinosaurs. I happen to know more on the subject of paleontology than many might credit, because my eldest daughter was Utahraptor-obsessed, and I am now living with a passionate Tyrannosaurus rex-lover, aged three. My credibility has soared within my science-loving family, and I am very much looking forward to reading Dr. Bakker and his colleague’s paper describing “my” dinosaur, which I can’t help visualizing as a slightly less pyromaniac Hungarian Horntail.”
The discovery and preparation of a one-of-a-kind fossil

The dinosaur was discovered by Brian Buckmeier and brothers Steve and Pat Saulsbury, all from Sioux City, Iowa. They found the remains of Dracorex during a fossil collecting trip in the Hell Creek Formation of central South Dakota. It was Steve Saulsbury who first suggested that they donate their new find. Steve fondly recalled taking his daughter Alexandra to the museum when he and his family lived in Indianapolis during his residency at Indiana University Hospital in the early 1990s. Steve talked to the others, and they soon agreed the museum would be the perfect home for this specimen. The trio donated their discovery to the museum in late 2004.
When Dracorex came to the museum it was still in the plaster field jacket.

Vertebrate paleontologist Victor Porter, along with preparator Shane Ziemmer, spent many hours getting this skull ready for exhibit. As the skull was cleaned and pieces glued together, thousands of children passed by the laboratory windows watching.

Want to learn more? Be sure to meet all of the dinos in Dinosphere!

Meet the Bambiraptor

Bambiraptor at the Children's Museum of IndianapolisYou’ve seen the dinos in Dinosphere– but have you ever taken the time to really get to know them? Well now’s your chance! In the Meet the Dinos blog series, you learn the behind the scenes story on all of your favorite dinosaurs, from their lives in the cretaceous period to their discoveries!

Who is the Bambiraptor?

Bambiraptor is the most bird-like of all the raptor dinosaurs found. Scientists don't know if Bambiraptor actually could fly, but its fossilized bones do show a close relationship to birds. Only one Bambirpator skeleton has ever been found. The two Dinosphere Bambiraptors are casts made from the original Bambiraptor.

The Linsters, a family of amateur paleontologists, found the original Bambiraptor in 1997 in Teton County Montana. The Bambiraptor was discovered with Dinosphere's Gorgosaurus and Maiasaura.

The Life of a Bambiraptor

Bambiraptor means baby raptor. Bambiraptor got its name because of its small size. Bambiraptor lived about 74 to 80 million years ago in the Late Cretaceous Period, at the same time as Gorgosaurus and Maiasaura but several million years before T. rex was alive.
Bambiraptor was very small compared to a T. rex, gorgosaur, or Maiasaura. It was about 3 feet long and 1 foot tall and weighed around 7 pounds. Its skull was about the size of a light bulb. Bambiraptor was a carnivore, which means it ate meat instead of plants. Do you think it was a predator or a scavenger?

Want to learn more? Be sure to meet all of the dinos in Dinosphere!

Meet Stan the T. rex

T. Rex at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.

You’ve seen the dinos in Dinosphere– but have you ever taken the time to really get to know them? Well now’s your chance! In the Meet the Dinos blog series, you learn the behind the scenes story on all of your favorite dinosaurs, from their lives in the cretaceous period to their discoveries!

Who is Stan?

Stan is a Tyrannosaurus rex (T. rex) which means "tyrant lizard king." Unlike Bucky the Teenage T. rex, Stan is an adult T. rexDinosphere's Stan is a cast of the original Stan in the collection of the Black Hills Institute.

Stan has probably the best preserved and most complete dinosaur skull ever discovered. Nearly every fossilized bone of Stan's skull was discovered during excavation. The fossilized bones in Stan's skull were found separated from each other. This is important because it allowed the bones to be preserved for millions of years in excellent condition with little distortion or crushing. It also gave scientists the opportunity to study each fossilized bone and determine how the bones connected and moved in relation to each other.
Forty-seven separate fossilized bones and 35 loose fossilized teeth were assembled in the reconstruction of Stan's skull. The only missing bones were two small skull pieces from Stan's lower jaw. Stan had several broken and healed ribs, a broken neck and a hole in the back of its skull. The study of Stan's skull led scientists to believe T. rex had the largest brain, the best eyesight, the best sense of smell, the strongest teeth and the most powerful jaw of all the dinosaurs in the Late Cretaceous Period at the end of the Age of Dinosaurs.

In 1987, amateur paleontologist Stan Sacrison was exploring in the Hell Creek Formation near the town of Buffalo, South Dakota, when he discovered a large fossilized bone sticking out of a sandy cliff face 100 feet above the prairie. He had discovered the T. rex later to be named after him, Stan.

The Life of a T. rex
Stan lived in the Late Cretaceous Period, around 65 million years ago. Tyrannosaurs like Stan could be found in parts of western North America.

T. rex was a carnivore, which means it ate meat instead of plants. Its teeth and strength came in handy when it ate. It had more than 50 teeth, the largest of which were up to 7 inches long and sharp like saw-edged steak knives. Its upper teeth were curved and very sharp like butcher's knives. T. rex didn't eat tiny, polite bites. Its teeth and strong jaw muscles enabled it to tear off and eat large chunks of meat from its prey.
From studying the way T. rex teeth were worn down, scientists believe that it likely ate tough, fresh meat instead of rotting meat from animals already dead. This means that T. rex was a predator rather than a scavenger. As a tyrannosaur's teeth got old, the long roots of the teeth dissolved so they could fall out and be replaced by new teeth.

Want to learn more? Be sure to meet all of the dinos in Dinosphere!

The Intern Experience: Playscape Research and Evaluation

Kala internCurrent Intern Kala Strickland is working in the Research and Evaluation Department on the summative evaluation of the Playscape gallery. She is a recent graduate of IUPUI and mom of 3 living in Indianapolis. In this blog post, Kala shares her experience interviewing visitors about their time in Playscape. 

This summer, I've had the pleasure of talking with families about their experiences in Playscape. Playscape provides unique opportunities for families to learn and play in a stimulating nature-themed environment with a wide range of sensory experiences, encouraging families to explore together. Seeing the happiness of children who've just climbed to the top of the climber is contagious! I've been fortunate to observe children learning new words and mastering new skills as they conduct the important business of playing and learning with their parents.  

Following up with families who reflect on their Playscape visit provide the museum with important information to keep improving experiences for visitors and allows the staff to measure the success of the gallery. The families I've spoken with have been happy to share about makes this space so special for their little ones. Parents share memorable moments that make their experiences rich and encourage them to return for more learning and fun. 

Working in the Research and Evaluation department has helped me better understand how the evaluation process informs decisions and provides valuable insight to almost all other departments in the museum. The Children’s Museum uses the information and guidance of the Research and Evaluation department when planning, developing, installing and improving exhibits. The museum also studies the local community to ensure that we're providing stimulating family learning opportunities that serve their needs.

Observing and interviewing families in Playscape this summer has allowed me to experience the museum from another perspective and contribute to the success of the teams working behind the scenes to create extraordinary experiences for our visitors. I've had the chance to listen to parents discuss their visit, which produces data that informs the exhibits team regarding what is working well and what needs some adjustments. This learning experience has allowed me to use my strong people skills and acquire new talents which I hope to put to use in the museum again in the future!

Learn more about internships at The Children's Museum at

Meet the Hypacrosaur Family

An infant Hypacrosaur dinosaur at the Indianapolis Children's MuseumYou’ve seen the dinos in Dinosphere– but have you ever taken the time to really get to know them? Well now’s your chance! In the Meet the Dinos blog series, you learn the behind the scenes story on all of your favorite dinosaurs, from their lives in the cretaceous period to their discoveries!

Who are the Hypacrosaurs?

Hypacrosaurus means "almost the highest lizard," because of its size. Hypacrosaurs are called duckbill dinosaurs because their mouths are shaped similar to a duck's bill. Hadrosaur is another name for duckbill dinosaurs. There are four hypacrosaurs in Dinosphere; an adult, a juvenile and two infants.

The adult hypacrosaur in Dinosphere is a combination of fossilized bones from more than one hypacrosaur and is 75 percent real fossilized bone. The juvenile is also a combination of fossilized bones from more than one hypacrosaur and is 70 percent real fossilized bone. One of the infants is 35 percent real fossilized bone from one hypacrosaur and the other infant is a cast of the first one. The remaining bones are casts from other hypacrosaurs that have been discovered.

The hypacrosaur family was discovered in 1990 at the Two Medicine Formation in Montana and was excavated over a period of five years. Hundreds of hypacrosaurs have been discovered at this site, possibly because the dinosaurs, traveling in a herd, drowned while crossing a river.
HypacrosaurThe adult and juvenile hypacrosaurs were found by the commercial paleontology group, Canada Fossils Ltd. The infant hypacrosaur was found by Dorothy and Leo Flamand working for Canada Fossils, Ltd.

Hypacrosaurs, like many other duckbill dinosaurs, had a nasal crest. Scientists think the hollow crest may have been used to make sounds so hypacrosaurs could communicate. Some think the sounds were similar to a low trumpet call. Only adults had crests, so younger hypacrosaurs may have made very different sounds. Some scientists think the crest may have been used by male hypacrosaurs to attract females.

How Hypacrosaurs Lived
Scientists believe that hypacrosaurs lived together in families. Several families lived together in groups called herds. There could be hundreds of hypacrosaurs living together in a herd. By living together, hypacrosaurs were better able to find food and protect themselves from predators. Hypacrosaurs were migratory, which means they moved to different places during different seasons. They may have migrated to find food, or they may have migrated from forests to the sandy shores of lakes to lay their eggs.
The mother hypacrosaur could lay up to 20 eggs in nests made of soft sand or dirt. She may have covered the eggs with sand or plants to keep them warm because she was too heavy to sit on the nest. Hypacrosaur eggs were about the size of cantaloupes. After hatching, the babies were about 24 inches long. The adults might have taken care of their young because the babies' leg bones were not strong enough for walking. It's not clear how soon the young hypacrosaurs joined the herd. The baby dinosaurs were so tiny that they could have been trampled by the bigger hypacrosaurs, so they may have lived together until they were big enough to travel.
Hypacrosaurs were herbivores, which means they ate plants instead of meat. Hypacrosaurs lived in the Late Cretaceous Period approximately 73 million years ago in western North America. Hypacrosaurs were big. An adult could be 30 feet long (as long as three basketball goals laid end-to-end), 15 feet tall, and could weigh 1.5 tons (3,000 lbs.). Because they were so big, hypacrosaurs had big appetites. An adult hypacrosaur ate around 350 lbs. of food a day. Hypacrosaurs had a long snout and a beak. It had rows and rows of teeth on both sides of its jaws, which it used like a grater to grind tough plants and leaves up to 6 feet off the ground. It had hundreds of teeth that were constantly replaced with new teeth.
Three of the four fingers on a hypacrosaur's front legs were enclosed in a mitten-like skin. This shape wasn't much help to the hypacrosaur in picking up food or fighting off predators, but it could help in walking. This has led scientists to believe that hypacrosaurs probably walked on all four legs. A hypacrosaur could probably walk faster on its back legs than on all four legs. Scientists estimate it could walk up to 12 miles per hour in a hurry, but that it usually walked on all fours at a much more leisurely pace.

Want to learn more? Be sure to meet all of the dinos in Dinosphere!

Meet Kelsey the Triceratops

Kelsey TriceratopsYou’ve seen the dinos in Dinosphere– but have you ever taken the time to really get to know them? Well now’s your chance! In the Meet the Dinos blog series, you learn the behind the scenes story on all of your favorite dinosaurs, from their lives in the cretaceous period to their discoveries!

Who is Kelsey?

Kelsey is a Triceratops horridus which means "horrible three-horned face." Why do you think they named this type of dinosaur that way?

Kelsey was discovered by the Leonard and Arlene Zerbst family in the fall of 1997 on their ranch in Niobrara County, Wyoming. The ranch is part of the Lance Creek fossil bed, where the fossils of many dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous Period have been found. The Zerbsts named Kelsey after their 3-year old granddaughter, Kelsey Ann.
Alongside Kelsey were found more than 20 fossilized teeth of predatory dinosaur, Nanotyrannus, a smaller cousin of T. rex. Did the Nanotyrannus kill Kelsey, or did Kelsey die of natural causes and the Nanotyrannus just happen along to scavenge on the already dead Triceratops? Does this explain the tiny bite marks found on Kelsey's leg?

Triceratops at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.

Interesting Facts about Kelsey

Like other Triceratops, Kelsey had a big head. It was as long as a human adult is tall (over 6 feet) and was nearly one-third as long as its body. The fossilized bone of the skull is up to 2 inches thick and is very heavy. The skull is bumpy (scientists refer to this as "rugosity"). Some scientists think this bumpiness might have been a sign of old age.
No dinosaur is discovered 100 percent complete. Due to erosion and other factors, some fossilized bones are always missing. The people who prepare the dinosaurs for exhibits create casts of the missing bones, usually from other dinosaurs that have been discovered, to fill in the missing pieces. Very few Triceratops have been found and most of the ones that have been found aren't very complete. More than 50 percent of Kelsey's skeleton has been found, which makes it possibly the most complete Triceratops ever found and one of the top three ever discovered. 

The Life of a Triceratops
Kelsey lived in the late Cretaceous Period, more than 65 million years ago. Triceratops like Kelsey could be found in the western part of the United States and in southwestern Canada. You can tell Kelsey is a Triceratops by the three horns on its head. Scientists call a horned dinosaur like Triceratops a ceratopsian. The two horns above the eye sockets were up to 3 feet long. The horns were sharp and covered with a thick coat of the same stuff your fingernails are made of, called keratin, which made them strong. They came in handy in a fight with any T. rex that decided Kelsey would make a nice meal.
Although Kelsey wasn't a predator looking for a fight, it wasn't defenseless if attacked. In addition to having horns, Triceratops could use its size to defend itself. Triceratops could be as tall as a basketball goal (10 feet), and as long as three basketball goals laid end-to-end (30 feet), and could weigh as much as three cars (six tons). A Triceratops' eyes also helped it defend itself. They were on the sides of its head and helped it scan for any predators coming after it.
You can't miss the big bone sticking up at the back of Kelsey's head. This bone is called a frill and scientists used to think it was there to protect the neck area. Some scientists now think the frill may have been important in helping male Triceratops attract females or distract potential male rivals for a female's attention. Another possible explanation for the frill is heat regulation. As the Triceratops' body warmed up, heat escaped from the frill and the body temperature returned to normal.
Kelsey was a herbivore, which means it ate plants instead of meat. Because a Triceratops was so big, it ate many pounds of plants a day. It ate low-lying plants such as ferns and cycads. Scientists think it may have used its horns to knock down small trees and then snipped off the leaves with its parrot-shaped beak. Scientists know some of the plants it ate by studying phytoliths, tiny parts of plants that left scratch marks on fossilized dinosaur teeth or remained between teeth after they fossilized. Scientists debate whether Triceratops lived in herds. Some think they might have roamed the Cretaceous forests on their own and did not migrate.

Want to learn more? Be sure to meet all of the dinos in Dinosphere!


Behind the Scenes—The Making of the Emperor’s Portrait

Emperor's Portrait in Progress

Rob Day is a nationally-recognized illustrator, with work appearing in Smithsonian, Time, Business Week, Rolling Stone and more. Day’s portrait of Emperor Qin Shi Huang is his second project for The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. You can also find his first painting of the infamous Captain Kidd in the Museum’s permanent exhibit, Treasures of the Earth.

When visitors to the Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit are welcomed by the larger-than-life image of China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, they might never guess that the emperor had a “stunt double.” Many thanks to David Donaldson, The Children's Museum's Chief Technology Officer, for graciously agreeing to be photographed—wearing full emperor garb—for reference images that have made the emperor’s portrait come to life!

The Reference Image: Shooting reference shots is often necessary when historic images are rare or difficult to obtain. As an illustrator, I’ve found many a model over the years to help me capture just the right reference images. When combined with historic information, they make for a much more realistic and engaging painting. Working with Children's Museum Creative Director Ned Shaw, we found just the right model in David, who Ned described as having “a regal bearing of an emperor.” (I wonder if this is a prerequisite for all CTOs?) Knowing that we needed a full-length portrait that captured the power and posture of Emperor Qin, we went to work shooting various poses that ultimately would be combined in the final portrait. 

The Research: One of the things that I enjoy most about working as an illustrator is the opportunity to research and learn about the subjects that I paint. I began by investigating existing images of Emperor Qin, costumes, and sword designs of ancient China. During my research I learned details about the emperor that would be included in the portrait. For instance, did you know that the dragon shown on the emperor's clothing always has five toes? Or, that the emperor is always portrayed wearing an unusual cap called a Guan Mian? In the Chinese idiom, Guan Mian Tang Huang translates: "elegant and stately in dressing". The "Guan" and "Mian" refer to cap. 

The Sketches: As Ned and I reviewed the dozens of reference photos taken from our shoot, we chose several images to combine for the portrait. I created pencil sketches incorporating details gleaned from my research to achieve an historically accurate portrayal of Emperor Qin's physical likeness. After discussing final elements with Ned and his team, I began painting the emperor’s portrait.

The Scan: The painting, which is 23"x38" oil on paper, took three weeks to complete. The next step was making a high resolution digital scan of the painting. Color corrections and costume details and embellishments were made digitally. Museum staff reproduced and enlarged the image and today the portrait of Emperor Qin towers over guests who enter the exhibit.

I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the history of what is considered to be the most significant archaeological find of the twentieth century and look forward to being one of the thousands of visitors who will be welcomed by Emperor Qin as I visit The Terra Cotta Warriors.

Want to see the portrait for yourself? Buy your tickets to see Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor's Painted Army.


All photos and sketches are courtesy of Rob Day, 2014.

Meet Frannie the Prenoceratops

Prenoceratops at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.You’ve seen the dinos in Dinosphere– but have you ever taken the time to really get to know them? Well now’s your chance! In the Meet the Dinos blog series, you learn the behind the scenes story on all of your favorite dinosaurs, from their lives in the cretaceous period to their discoveries!

Who is Frannie?

Frannie is an adult Prenoceratops and is about 60 percent real fossilized bone. No dinosaur is discovered 100 percent complete. Due to erosion and other factors, some fossilized bones are always missing. The people who prepare the dinosaurs for exhibits create casts of the missing bones, usually from other dinosaurs that have been discovered, to fill in the missing pieces.

Dorothy and Leo Flammand found Frannie in 1995 in the St. Mary's Formation in Pondera County, Montana while working for Canada Fossils Ltd., a commercial paleontology group. Frannie is named after Fran Julian, a supporter of The Children's Museum.

There are two Prenoceratops in Dinosphere. In addition to Frannie, there is a cast model made from Frannie's bones. Some scientists believe that Frannie could be an entirely new species of Prenoceratops!

The Life of a Prenoceratops

Not all dinosaurs were big or had long necks and sharp teeth. Many dinosaurs were quite small. Frannie, an adult Prenoceratops, is less than 6 feet long and 3 feet tall and would have weighed less than 150 lbs in life. Prenoceratops lived in the Middle and Late Cretaceous Period, approximately 65 to 74 million years ago in western North America and Australia.
There's something mysterious about Prenoceratops. It doesn't seem to belong to the usual cast of Cretaceous creatures. At the end of the Age of Dinosaurs when Prenoceratops lived, most dinosaurs had adapted and evolved in special ways to meet the challenges of a changing environment. Prenoceratops, however, was around for a very long time in geological history and did not seem to develop unique adaptations. Perhaps it survived on the fringes of the forest or in the uplands where there was less competition for food and fewer predators.

Prenoceratops is a cousin to Triceratops. Both are members of the Ceratopsian family of dinosaurs, which means they have horns. But Prenoceratops does not have a horn, even though its name means "slender horned face." Prenoceratops did have some things in common with Triceratops. Both were herbivores, which means they ate plants instead of meat, and both had a beak like a parrot that they used to snip plants to eat. Prenoceratops also had a frill, but it was smaller than a Triceratops frill. Prenoceratops had teeth different from the teeth of Triceratops and other Ceratopsians. Prenoceratops teeth were broad rather than long, perhaps for eating a variety of plants. Each tooth also had only one, rather than several, replacement teeth available. The Prenoceratops teeth had one root rather than double roots like the teeth of Triceratops.
Prenoceratops probably walked on all four legs, but may have had the ability to stand on two feet for feeding. Its slender build indicates that it could move quickly. Some scientists think Prenoceratops may have used its hind legs to burrow into the ground to hide from predators. Other scientists disagree and think Prenoceratops could have run swiftly to escape predators. Scientists also aren't sure if Prenoceratops lived alone or in herds. Six, however, were found together in a bone bed in 1999. Could this be a clue?

Want to learn more? Be sure to meet all of the dinos in Dinosphere!

Meet Bucky the Teenage T. rex

Bucky the teenage T. Rex at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.

You’ve seen the dinos in Dinosphere– but have you ever taken the time to really get to know them? Well now’s your chance! In the Meet the Dinos blog series, you learn the behind the scenes story on all of your favorite dinosaurs, from their lives in the cretaceous period to their discoveries!

Who is Bucky?

Bucky is a Tyrannosaurus rex (T. rex) which means "tyrant lizard king." Bucky is a teenager almost the size of an adult T. rex. Although still young, Bucky is already big, about 34 feet long and more than 10 feet tall!

A young rancher and rodeo cowboy named Bucky Derflinger discovered Bucky in 1998. That's how Bucky the T. rex got its name. Bucky Derflinger has been collecting dinosaur fossils since he was 9 years old. He was 20 when he saw Bucky's fossilized toe bone sticking out of the ground. The part of the fossilized bone he saw was white because it was weathered and had been bleached by the sun. Bucky Derflinger is the youngest person ever to have discovered a T. rex. You don't have to be a professional paleontologist to be a dinosaur hunter!
Bucky DerflingerMost of Bucky's fossilized bones were scattered and difficult to find. The dig site for its bones was about half the size of a football field—the largest dig site ever for a T. rex. Bucky was extremely well preserved and easy to prepare for display in the museum because the rock surrounding its fossilized bones, called the matrix, was soft and easy to remove.

  • Bucky is the sixth most complete T. rex ever found and the first teenage T. rex put on permanent display in a museum.
  • Bucky is the first T. rex to be identified with a furcula (also called a wishbone). This is very important because modern-day birds have wishbones. Does this mean that dinosaurs are distant relatives of birds?
  • Bucky also has a nearly complete set of gastralia and is only the third T. rex to be discovered with an ulna, or elbow bone.

The Life of a T. rex

Bucky lived in the late Cretaceous Period, around 65 million years ago. Tyrannosaurs like Bucky could be found in parts of western North America. Bucky lived at the top of the food chain, but life during the Cretaceous was tough and it wasn't easy to find food. Tyrannosaurs were carnivores, which means they ate meat instead of plants. Starvation, disease, and fights with potential mates and rivals were some of the bad things that could happen to a T. rex.

Although adult tyrannosaurs were one of the largest and most powerful of all predatory dinosaurs (about as heavy as an elephant, tall enough to look through a second story window and long enough to stretch out the width of a tennis court), some other dinosaurs, such as a large duckbill or Triceratops, may have been too big and powerful for a T. rex to kill by itself. Some scientists think tyrannosaurs worked together in families or groups to kill prey.
Bucky had a strong sense of smell, powerful legs that may have allowed it to move quickly, and forward-looking eyes which allowed it to quickly spot and focus on prey—characteristics that made it a ferocious hunter. (Some paleontologists believe tyrannosaurs were actually slow moving.) Bucky's lower jaw hinged like a door at the midpoint between its jawbone and chin so it could open its mouth wider to take bigger bites. Scientists think the T. rex moved its lower jaw backwards so its sharp lower teeth could tear through what it was eating while its upper teeth held the food in place. Fully grown tyrannosaurs were relatively lightweight for their size (around 6 tons—about as heavy as 3 cars) because their bones were hollow and they had large openings in their skulls.

Want to learn more? Be sure to meet all of the dinos in Dinosphere!

Meet the Didelphodon

The Jaw of a DidelphodonYou’ve seen the dinos in Dinosphere– but have you ever taken the time to really get to know them? Well now’s your chance! In the Meet the Dinos blog series, you learn the behind the scenes story on all of your favorite dinosaurs, from their lives in the cretaceous period to their discoveries!

Who is the Didelphodon?

Didelphodon is a mammal, not a dinosaur. Despite its small size, Didelphodon was among the largest mammals in the world 65 million years ago. But dinosaurs ruled the land and even the largest mammals were an easy target. In Dinosphere, you will see a fossilized Didephodon jaw bone and two models of a complete Didelphodon.

The discovery of the Didelphodon jaw is important because it is the first Didelphodon jaw containing teeth. The jaw will help scientists determine the size, position and number of its other teeth, and will serve as a useful comparison tool when studying other early mammals.

Barry Brown was searching for fossils in 2001 in Harding County, South Dakota, when he spotted a small area of eroded rock that was filled with "micro material" - tiny fossilized bones, teeth and claws from mammals, fish, amphibions, reptiles and dinosaurs. Included in the fossilized material was the Dinosphere Didelphodon jaw.

The Life of a Didelphodon

Didelphodon was a small creature that lived among the forests of the Late Cretaceous Period around 65 million years ago, along with T. rex, Triceratops and the duckbill dinosaurs. If you have ever seen an opossum, you know what Didelphodon might have looked like. Though no one has found anything more than a few pieces of a Didelphodon - fossilized teeth, jaw and skull fragments - scientists have speculated that it resembled today's opossum in shape and size. In fact, the name Didelphodon means "opossum tooth."
Didelphodon likely burrowed in the ground and slept during the day for protection. At night, it relied on its keen sense of smell and good vision to scavenge for insects, small reptiles, amphibians, other mammals, or dinosaur eggs. Its teeth were especially suited for crushing, so it could probably feast on hard-shell clams, snails or baby turtles. Like today's kangaroos and koalas, Didelphodon was a marsupial and probably carried its young in a pouch. Although marsupials are found today mostly in Australia and South America, Didelphodon fossils have been found only in North America.

Want to learn more? Be sure to meet all of the dinos in Dinosphere!

Three Lessons I Learned From an 11-year-old in China

Jackie school deskLast year I had the privilege of traveling to Quan Zhou, China to do research for the now open Take Me There:® China exhibit at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis. It was my job to photo-document and interview the Wang family who is represented in the exhibit. I was only there three days, but I was completely immersed in their day-to-day life. This family was one of the kindest, most generous, most hardworking families I’ve ever met.

I grew especially fond of eleven-year-old Wang Yijie (Jackie). These are three lessons I learned from Jackie that I still carry with me today.

1. Eat Bitterness. 
This means that when hard things happen, you have to endure them in order to accomplish your long term goals. It’s a common saying in the Chinese culture, but to hear it come from an eleven-year-old is pretty special, in my opinion. When I was interviewing Jackie he told me this was a lesson he learned from his parents and grandparents and something he really admired about them. Any time I am struggling I think of this phrase.

2. You can communicate without speaking the same language.
While I did travel with a fantastic translator there were times when I sat with Jackie alone in the back seat of the car as we were traveling to our next destination. Jackie speaks some English, but my Mandarin-speaking skills are, well, non-existent to say the least. It was ok, though! We communicated with hand gestures and facial expressions and still managed to form a strong bond over those three days. Often when we sat down to a meal Jackie would watch my facial expression. If he thought I didn’t know how to eat a certain food he would get my attention and show me so I didn’t feel awkward. It’s not always about what you say, it’s your actions that can matter the most.

3. Challenge yourself.
One of Jackie’s favorite activities is chess. Why you ask? Because it’s complicated and it helps with your critical thinking and strategic planning (these words are coming from an eleven-year-old, remember!) I was so impressed when I heard this response to my interview question. When I think back on this it reminds me that I should challenge myself every day. If Jackie can do it, I can do it! 

What unexpected lessons have you learned from a child?

Meet the Gorgosaur

Gorgosaurus at The Children's Museum of Indianapolis

You’ve seen the dinos in Dinosphere—but have you ever taken the time to really get to know them? Well now’s your chance! In the Meet the Dinos blog series, learn the story behind all of your favorite dinosaurs, from their lives in the Cretaceous period to their discoveries!

One Interesting Gorgosaur
We can tell by the injuries found on The Children's Museum's Gorgosaur that she lived a very rough life. Her injuries included broken bones, bad teeth, and a brain tumor! The Gorgosaur's brain tumor may be the first one ever discovered in a dinosaur. It may have contributed to the Gorgosaur's other injuries, and may even have caused her death. Almost all the fossilized teeth of the Gorgosaur are intact and attached to her jaw, but she had a bad infection in her mouth that caused her to lose some teeth. Because of all her injuries, scientists believe this Gorgosaur walked with pain and most likely had help from others in her pack to survive.
The Gorgosaur's injured bones include:

  • A broken fibula. Instead of being strong and straight, this twisted and bumpy lower leg bone healed poorly.
  • Crushed caudal vertebrae. These tail bones began to grow together as they were healing.
  • A broken femur. This leg bone was so badly injured that a section of the bone tore away from the rest.
  • Broken gastralia. These belly ribs helped protect the gorgosaur's vital organs. Some of the ribs healed.
  • Broken scapula. This gorgosaur had a shattered scapula, or shoulder blade. A huge growth formed around the bone to stabilize it as it healed.
There are several things about this Gorgosaur which make scientists think this may be a new species of dinosaur previously unknown to science. These include a manus claw, a sharp, curved claw similar to that of a T. rex; a furcula which leads some scientists to suggest that dinosaurs may be related to birds; and a rugose (bumpy) lacrimal. Preparators working on the Gorgosaur skull also found delicate structures in her nose. These structures, which are unusually well preserved, are called vestibular bulae. They may help scientists learn more about the anatomy of dinosaurs.

Gorgosaurs vs. Tyrannosaurus

Gorgosaurus means "fearsome lizard." Gorgosaurus lived in the Late Cretaceous Period, about 70 to 80 million years ago in the western United States. Gorgosaurus looks like its cousin T. rex. The two have a lot in common. Both were fierce carnivores, which means they ate meat instead of plants, with dozens of sharp teeth designed for biting and swallowing prey. Both were bipeds, which means they walked on two legs, and had small, muscular arms and long tails that they used to balance themselves. They both had eyes on the front of their heads which helped them look in the distance for prey, and they had a strong sense of smell, which also helped them find prey.
Gorgosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex weren't exactly alike, however. Gorgosaurus lived several million years before T. rex, had a bony plate over its eyes and was slightly smaller than T. rex. An adult Gorgosaur was approximately 25 feet long and 10 feet tall at the hip. Gorgosaurs had strong, powerful legs, which helped them to run more than 20 miles per hour when they were chasing prey. They had three-toed feet with sharp claws. A Gorgosaur had a strong, muscular neck to support its huge head and jaws. It had more than 60 teeth 4 to 5 inches long. The teeth were serrated, which means they had notched edges like a steak knife. The teeth were not well suited for chewing, so the Gorgosaur may have swallowed large chunks of flesh whole.
The Gorgosaur's Discovery
What do you do on your summer vacation? The Linsters—Cliff, Sandy, and their seven children—are a family of amateur paleontologists who hunted dinosaurs on their summer vacations. They found the Gorgosaur in 1997 in Teton County, Montana. Finding a Gorgosaur is more rare than finding a T. rex. There have been only 20 Gorgosaurs ever found and this one is the most complete.
The body of this Gorgosaur is about 75 percent complete and her skull is about 90 percent complete. No dinosaur is discovered 100 percent complete. Due to erosion and other factors, some fossilized bones are always missing. The people who prepare the dinosaurs for exhibits create casts of the missing bones, usually from other dinosaurs that have been discovered, to fill in the missing pieces. A Maiasaura and a Bambiraptor were found with the Gorgosaur.

Want to learn more? Be sure to meet all of the dinos in Dinosphere!

Get Ready to Try It Out!

Try It OutClaire Thoma is the museum’s Evaluation and Research Coordinator—a job only a data nerd could love!

We’ve got questions; you’ve got answers! 

You probably assume that you’ll be the one doing all the learning when you visit The Children’s Museum (and we hope you do learn cool new things every time you visit), but in my job, I am constantly trying to learn from you! Those of us who work in the Evaluation and Research department collect information from visitors to learn about the effectiveness of our exhibits and programs. We are continually trying to find out how we can make these experiences even better. This is where you come in!  

Starting June 23rd and through all of July, a small section of a Level 2 gallery will become the Try It Out! space. Staff members from a bunch of departments will be in the space to talk to you about questions they need your help to answer. Where exhibits are concerned, some of the questions are, “What types of exhibits would you be interested in visiting in the future?” and “What do you know or wonder about Transformers?” Marketing staff want to find out about your favorite parts of our holiday exhibit, Jolly Days. The curators who take care of the museum’s collection want to show you some real objects from the collection and find out which ones you think are interesting. And those are only a few of the burning questions our staff members want to know!

So if you’re visiting the museum this July, drop by the Try It Out! space on Level 2 by the slide line, and check out what’s going on. (Dates and times may vary based on the activity.) You might get to try a new exhibit element, play a game we’re testing, or vote for the next show in the Lilly Theater. We can’t wait to hear what you think after you Try It Out! 


China’s Terra Cotta Warriors—Don’t Let The Kids Have All the Fun!

TCW costumesBy Erika Evans, Marketing Projects Manager

A major perk of working at The Children’s Museum is that I get to learn a lot about the content of each exhibit before it opens—often from the perspective of children, students, and their families—which is not my own demographic as a twenty-something. But as I’ve learned more and more about China’s Terra Cotta Warriors, I’ve realized this exhibit is NOT just for the kids.

If you have the privilege of being one of my friends, I’ve probably gone off on at least one tangent about what I’ve learned about the most significant archaeological find of modern time—why these warriors are so cool, and why these exhibits are awesome… for the grown-ups, too!

If you haven’t gotten the chance to hear me rave about this cool archaeological find, check out this quick video and these 10 fun facts about the Terra Cotta Warriors. (These tid bits will have you amazing your own friends before you know it!)

These fun facts aside, the first response I hear from my friends is…”But wait…is it weird to go to the museum if you don’t have kids to take with you?” Answer? It’s definitely NOT weird. Come with or without kids whenever you’d like. We like to say that The Children’s Museum is for kids at heart, too!

But if you would rather avoid kids altogether, you do have an opportunity to see the Terra Cotta Warriors when they won’t be around. (Shocking! I know!)  The museum is hosting a new event series this summer—called Terra Cotta Warriors After Dark. Once the museum closes for visitors, adults 21 and older can mingle and enjoy our new, one-of-a-kind exhibits…without the kids!  You’ll also have the chance to explore Take Me There:® China and Dinosphere® featuring Leonardo: The Mummified Dinosaur. Take Me There: China is our brand new exhibit that brings contemporary China to Indianapolis families. So at Terra Cotta Warriors After Dark, you can explore ancient China AND modern–PLUS dinosaurs. Can’t beat that!

And bonus—there will be food and beverages from P.F. Chang’s and Sun King Brewing! And MOST importantly, all proceeds support the museum’s future exhibits and programs (Sounds like a win-win to me!)

So, now that you know all of the important stuff, surely you’re intrigued enough to check out the exhibits and join us for one of the three Terra Cotta Warriors After Dark event dates. Whether you’re like me and didn’t know a lot about this stuff before (for the record, my friends didn’t either!), or want to learn more…it’s for “grown-ups” too!

Buy your tickets now for the June 27, July 18, or August 22 event dates.

The SciencePort Scoop: School Is Out, but Science Is In!

SciencePort fossilsHeather Gromley is The Children's Museum's MuseumPort Coordinator. Heather is finishing her master’s degree in Museum Studies from The Johns Hopkins University. She enjoys planetarium shows, facilitating science programs, and sitting sidesaddle on giraffes on the carousel. 

The staff of SciencePort invites you to visit our space to put your science skills to work and investigate some pretty cool topics. SciencePort® is a great place for the whole family to dive and explore through hands-on activities and technology stations. We have everything from a microscope station, to nifty science apps and in-depth investigations. Each week, we feature a different topic, related to an exhibit in the museum. We feature activities on flight, plants, and health, just to name a few.

This summer we've launched investigation stations about China to support our extraordinary new exhibits Take Me There:® China and Terra Cotta Warriors: The Emperor’s Painted Army. Come explore tangram dissection puzzles, how to use an abacus, watch a live panda on the Panda Cam, create a Terra Cotta Warrior bookmark, and observe what tea leaves looks like under the microscope. 

SciencePort Dinos

One of our most popular programs is our Dinosaurs and Fossils theme. Together we'll decide what adaptations your dinosaur will need to survive in a setting you create. Will your winged T. rex survive in the ocean? Fossils are all around us, even in Indianapolis. Use the microscope or a magnifying glass to identify Indiana microfossils. Also, you can create a fossil imprint to take home with you! 

A cool feature of SciencePort is our animation station that allows you to make movie magic through stop motion animation. We also have touch screen computers and iPads to help you explore our topics.

Our super science staff is constantly researching new ideas for technology and investigations, so make sure you stop by each time you visit. We're located in ScienceWorks on Level 4. Look for signs around the red staircase in the construction zone area. SciencePort is open daily, from 11 a.m.–1 p.m. and 2 p.m.–4 p.m. Programming times may vary, so be sure to check gallery signs for more information about times or investigation topics. See you soon!

Take Me There: China Top 10—Music and Arts

Years of research, including many staff trips, went into making the Take Me There:® China exhibit. In this blog series, you'll see how we were inspired by the people, places, and traditions of modern China as we recreated these top ten exhibit highlights. You'll also get a snapshot of what your family will experience in these extraordinary spaces—brought to you straight from our exhibit developers!

Throughout Take Me There: China your family will find opportunities to experience Chinese art and music as you participate in performances, discover authentic art and music, and learn about the history and tradition of the Chinese arts. Many of the art and music-related experiences can be found in and around the Tea House, with other activities—including the seasonal shadow puppet cultural immersion program— taking place in People's Park.

Jenny Guhzeng

Music in Take Me There: China

Try your hand at playing traditional authentic Chinese instruments like drums and bells, or strum a guzhong or a pipa. Traditional Chinese musical instruments are highly valued, collected, and played, even today. On an iPad, your family can watch and listen to clips of traditional music played on the pipa, compared to an American stringed instrument, the banjo. Our teacher-in-residence will also perform on traditional instruments and share about Chinese music with your family. 

Discover Chinese arts such as silk embroidery, painting, shadow puppets, jade carving, and fine porcelain. Just outside the Tea House, look for cases with fine examples of traditional and contemporary Chinese jade and ceramic art objects. In China, jade (“yu”) has long been prized for its color, transparency, and texture. Jade carving and the crafting of fine porcelain are both art forms that are still widely practiced today.

Other things to see and do:

  • Watch a video showing the art of Chinese shadow puppetry, as well as a segment of the story of Monkey King and the Jade Emperor. Look for the beautiful shadow puppets from our permanent collection on either side of the screen.
  • Practice Chinese painting, using similar tools as you take inspiration from an original, 19th century hand scroll featuring 100 children. Learn about Chinese art from the past and present through a display of traditional and modern scroll paintings. 
  • See examples of dragon robes embroidered with traditional symbols paired with contemporary silk dresses, blouses, and children’s clothing that incorporate similar motifs and colors. Touch a panel of real silk to feel the texture of the fabric.

Catch up on all of the Take Me There: China Top 10, or read up on staff adventures in China in our Creative Director's blog series: "Ned's Excellent China Adventure," Part 1 and Part 2.

Take Me There: China Top 10—Family Homes

Years of research, including many staff trips, went into making the Take Me There:® China exhibit. In this blog series, you'll see how we were inspired by the people, places, and traditions of modern China as we recreated these top ten exhibit highlights. You'll also get a snapshot of what your family will experience in these extraordinary spaces—brought to you straight from our exhibit developers!

Meet four generations of the Wangs, a typical Chinese family from Fujian Province in China. Your family will see this area through the eyes of eleven-year-old Wang Yijie  (Jackie) as you explore his parents', grandparents’, and great-grandmother’s homes. Some of Jackie's family moved to larger cities for jobs, while others preferred to stay in the rural, seaside town where they grew up.

Like people around the world, the Wang parents and grandparents cherish their children and grandchildren. They also have high expectations for their children to work hard, be generous, and get an education to succeed.

Wang family couch

Couch Wang Family

Discover similarities between the lifestyles of Chinese children—like Jackie Wang—and western children. Jackie's father, Feng Wang, and his family have recently moved into a brand-new, multi-story apartment building. Take a seat in the living room and look through the family's scrapbooks, which include photos of daily life in Quanzhou. Watch the family's TV for a segment on kung fu and clips from the Wangs’ favorite TV shows. Peek into the family’s lucky fish tank to see Jackie’s “pet” fish and crab.

Practice your chopsticks skills in the Quanzhou home of Jackie's grandparents. Role play cooking fish, vegetables, and the soup noodles that Mrs.Wang is known for. Then serve the "food" at the dining room table and see how quickly you can pick up noodles or dumplings with chopsticks. In the living room, explore the tradition of the zodiac—Shengxiao—as you lift the flaps under bronze animal sculptures to find which animal represents your own birth year.

See the Ancestors’ Shrine in Jackie's great-grandmother's house and learn how the family traces their heritage over 100 generations. Respect for ancestors is a key cultural value exemplified by the shrine. Near the shrine, choose a Chinese given name for yourself from a list of common boys’ or girls’ names, then stamp the characters on a bookmark to take home. Many Chinese families have a tradition for conferring given names that might seem different than western traditions. 

Other things to see and do:

  • Sit down on Jackie's bed to hear Jackie talk about favorite things in his room. Bookshelves at the end of his bed hold family photos, books, and his stamp collections.
  • Scroll through an iPad on Jackie's bedroom desk that showcases a day in Jackie's life, including photo albums and short video clips.
  • Learn about Grandfather Wang’s hobby, penjing—the art of growing and training miniature trees and plants—and see faux trees and plants similar to Mr. Wang’s creations. 
  • Sit on the bed in Jackie's grandmother's house to hear Jackie tell a story about his great-grandmother’s life—a tale of hard work, perseverance, and devotion to family.
  • See pieces from the Museum’s collection of infant hats, bibs, and shoes—just the kind of clothing that parents and grandparents like to save as mementos. The clothing includes examples of common Chinese themes and symbols, such as dragons, bats, fish, or tigers.


Catch up on all of the Take Me There: China Top 10, or read up on staff adventures in China in our Creative Director's blog series: "Ned's Excellent China Adventure," Part 1 and Part 2.