For the past couple of months, the Science Museum of Minnesota has been running the special exhibit, “Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns and Mermaids.” The exhibit, initially developed by the American Museum of Natural History in New York, aims to shed light on the myths, legends, and stories from different cultures around the globe. Countless people thought of and believed in creatures and beasts of pure imagination and others inspired by animals that exist in the natural world.
Wait, wait…hold on, one might say, an exhibit on mythic creatures at a science museum?
Why, yes! According to Alison Rempel Brown, the science museum president, “‘Mythic Creatures’ will give us a chance to see creatures from around the world. Their roots in legend and history are fascinating to discover. Ultimately they teach us how scientific discovery changes over time in a very memorable way and shows us what is real.” (Source: Release the kraken! Mythic monsters to maraud Science Museum of Minnesota).
As Brown points out, studying the evolution of various myths and legends can help illuminate how early civilizations and cultures viewed the world. By looking at how a given culture’s beliefs influenced others from different regions, we can add new layers to our understanding of human geography. By researching the origins of a culture’s myths, we can begin to understand how humans began to ascribe meaning to the natural world. And through broader understandings of these ancient myths and legends, we can begin to infer the influence they had in shaping the beliefs and traditions of today.
The exhibit is divided up into 4 subsections: Water – Creatures of the Deep, Land – Creatures of the Earth, Air – Creatures of the Sky, and Dragons – Creatures of Power. Within each section are examples of beasts and monsters from several different legends and myths and from a diverse range of cultures. From reproductions of the creatures themselves to examples of their representations in art, clothing, literature, traditions and celebrations, the exhibit breaks down the stories behind each creature and explores the context with which the various peoples ascribe meaning to them.
The pictures above (taken by yours truly) illustrate just a few of the displays throughout the exhibit – I really enjoyed reading through the histories of some of these fantastic creatures and noting the different lenses with which their stories were presented. The original curators of the exhibit, Mark A. Norell, a biologist, Laurel Kendall, an anthropologist, and Richard Ellis, a marine conservationist and painter, bring a wide array of experience and expertise, making sure to provide information through multiple perspectives and different angles.
There is still time left to check it out – as the museum itself would say, “Get Kraken!”
“Mythic Creatures: Dragons, Unicorns and Mermaids” will be at the Science Museum of Minnesota until Sunday, April 16th.