This post was originally published in January, 2016.
The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque is a wonderful museum for the whole family. On the Monday of the Martin Luther King holiday, I went to the museum with my daughter and her two little ones and my son, his wife and his two children. The four children ranged in age from two to eight years old.
The museum, located east of Old Town Plaza, is light and airy with high ceilings. In spite of the large numbers of people at the museum the day we were there, we never felt crowded thanks to the museum’s open floor plan. The open floor plan also encourages gazing over the railings of the second floor at the people and exhibits below. There are comfortable, padded benches to sit on when one gets tired. Everywhere there are signs that read, “Please touch” in English and in Spanish.
I can’t say how much I love being encouraged to touch things. So often in museums touching is forbidden. It’s understandable as many items on exhibit are fragile and could be damaged, but the ability to touch allows for more hands-on learning. There are plenty of opportunities for visitors to touch and feel such as the sand pit for digging up fossils or making Dino tracks.
The first thing you see inside the museum atrium (or main hall) is a life-size Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton. My grandson, Noah, (age 8) informed me that his name is Stan and this is how he looks when he is in attack mode. Noah also told me Stan “had a good smeller, 3-D vision without those glasses, and could run very, very fast.” He had picked up his information on previous visits. Obviously, Noah is captivated by these creatures.
I am as fascinated by these magnificent and mysterious creatures as Noah. The museum’s presentation of the subject is perfect! The museum’s main permanent exhibit Timetracks: A Walk through Time offers a journey through 12 billion years of New Mexico’s natural history, from the formation of the universe to the present day. Basically, you start at the Big Bang and work your way through the different eras of time in chronological order, if you choose. It didn’t make a difference to the children in what order we viewed the exhibits. They loved them all.
There are eight exhibit halls starting at the Dawn of Dinosaurs and the Jurassic Super Giants to the Age of Volcanoes and the Ice Age. We learned about giant birds, dire wolves, mammoths, camels, and saber-tooth cats that all thrived in New Mexico before they disappeared.
The museum also has several other well-known dinosaurs on display including a huge Apatosaurus and a Seismosaurus, the world’s largest dinosaur. The exhibit I really liked was the mini theater simulating the experience of the massive asteroid believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs.
Each one of my grandchildren had their favorite exhibit. Mia loved the Evolator, a simulated elevator takes you back and forth in time. Noah loved anything dinosaur and each new exhibit was his new favorite. Zare’s vote went to The Naturalist Center where there were microscopes, native animals, touch specimens to learn more about the natural world of New Mexico. And Carter, who is 2 and a half, loved the animatronic dinosaurs. His response to the moving dinosaurs was priceless! The roar of the animatronic T-Rex could be heard throughout the museum and Carter would copy that roar each time.
Friendly, knowledgeable docents are on hand in each of the exhibits, eager to engage visitors and answer questions or share observations. One of the docents told me the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science was the original creator of museum-quality animatronic dinosaurs. For generations, dinosaurs fans marveled at skeletons and illustrations, only able to imagine how dinosaurs might have moved until they were brought to life through this technology.
The other permanent exhibits offer a rich variety of things to see and do. Meet dinosaurs, see a Mars Rover replica and a moon rock, discover New Mexico’s wildlife or trace the history of the personal computer.
The museum also has an IMAX Dyna Theater and a Planetarium. Admissions to them are separate from admission to the museum itself. The New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science has something for everyone!