Posts Tagged ‘natural history museums’

REVIEWS FROM THE REV: Two great museums.

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

Each time I tour my John Singer Sargent performance across the country, I make a point of stopping at as many interesting museums as I can.  Of course I’m a sucker for any billboard that has a dinosaur on it, but that weakness has led me to two really outstanding museums in places that would normally lead me to expect merely average at best.

I keep talking about two in particular, and thought I should use this forum to introduce you to them should your travels ever take you near them (and since they are both very close to Interstate 40, the chances might be good!).


Battle of the Titans at the Sam Noble MuseumThe first is the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman, Oklahoma.  This place was good when I visited it some years ago, so I was stunned by the massive makeover it went through by the time visited again last year.  Their Hall of Ancient Life is comprehensive and extensive.  One highlight is the skull of a Pentaceratops that was excavated at Ghost Ranch, New Mexico, and is the largest dinosaur skull ever found.  If that’s not impressive enough, that skull is now mounted on an entire skeleton (one of the results of the recent “makeover”).  An interesting side note is a bulletin board where school children that visit can leave comments.  Being in the “Bible Belt”, there are always a few chastising the museum for not telling the “truth” about dinosaurs!

Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History is located at 2401 Chautauqua Ave. in Norman, Oklahoma and is part of the University of Oklahoma. The phone number is: 405.325.4712


Even more surprising was what I found after a slight detour through Amarillo about a year ago.  Lured once more by a dinosaurDinosaurs in Amarillo!  Oh My! on a billboard, I came upon the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum in Canyon, Texas.  Expecting a lot of bluster about Texas, Cowboys and Oil, I was very surprised to see a tremendous exhibit of fossils, including an impressive series of skulls of extinct bison.  There is a big section on the history of the oil business, to be sure, which is actually worth seeing, as well as a great exhibit on the evolution of local Texas life from the frontier, to Route 66 and beyond.

There are parts of the museum that are clearly very old, and have not been changed much.  But they provide a sort of charming tableau of what was once a modest museum that has now been so clearly guided by a definite vision into a very comprehensive and delightful destination.  I can’t recommend the PPHM enough!  Go for the dinosaurs (it turns out the nearby Palo Duro Canyon is a fossil goldmine for certain eras of life — you’ll find Dimetrodons there!), stay for the indoor oil derrick!

As the museum director says on their website: “From dinosaurs to modern art, from saddles to automobiles, we have it all…”  And I can attest that this is a true statement!

The Panhandle Plains Historical Museum is at 2503 Fourth Ave in
Canyon, Texas.  Phone: 806.651.2244

(If you do go to Amarillo, I can also suggest you skip the “Big Texan” steak house.  Tastier bits to chew can be found along the highway!)

As a side note, a friend tipped me off that the The Albuquerque Museum of Art & History is hosting a special exhibition: Turner to Cézanne, Masterpieces from the Davies Collection, National Museum Wales, May 16 – August 8, 2010.  A rare chance to see some real names on real paintings in New Mexico.  Tickets are only five bucks (added to the three buck entry for NM residents).  What a deal!

The Albuquerque Museum is located at 2000 Mountain Road NW, at the intersection of Mountain Road and 19th Street, directly west of Tiguex Park.  Call 505-243-7255.

t.n.s.r. bob