The Adventures of Archie the Wandering T. rex: France

by Karen Whitley

Hey there, devoted fans! Archie checking in. I can’t wait to tell you about my last adventure abroad.

After packing up from my last adventure to jolly ol’ England, I said “Cheers!” to the United Kingdom and boarded the Eurostar to France! Parlez-vous français anyone? Yeah, me neither, unfortunately. The Chunnel was great, zooming along an underground tunnel at 160 kph (that’s about 100 mph for us Americans) while changing countries, languages, currency, and even time! But the absolute best part was the jelly they served with breakfast! Oops, I mean the preserves. Don’t worry, I took a photo of the jar so we could all benefit! *Cough* I may have taken the rest of the jar with me. A dinosaur has to eat, after all.

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So after a scrumptious meal and a quick changeover in Lille, Nord-Pas-de-Calais we arrived at Disneyland Paris where we would be staying for our whole trip. Interesting note, all of the Disney hotels have American names. What can I say? It’s a small world. The parks were a lot of fun and we learned to get around the language barrier. They were amazing at accommodating people and dinosaurs from all over the world. Of course we managed to ask for the most important thing, une glace. At least that’s how the locals say cremèe glacée: ice cream!

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Despite how awesome the parks were, you can’t go all the way to France without checking out Paris proper. I was lucky to be with some veteran travelers who knew the ins and outs, so we took the metro to the Trocadéro stop to begin our new site-seeing adventure!

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Grr, argh!

After lunch under the Eiffel Tower (and let me tell you, you haven’t had a hot dog until you’ve had one in France. It was in a baguette!), we took a boat down the Seine to our final Paris destination. Can you guess?

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Notre Dame Cathedral was beyond spectacular, but I can’t tell you how excited I was to discover what was on top. Only 387 steps up (ok, I totally piggybacked that climb) I discovered what looked like some long lost cousins on my mother’s side. Oh boy, I really felt a connection here! I almost didn’t want to leave, but I had a new adventure just around the corner.

After my amazing summer trip, I headed back home to the Houston Museum of Natural Science just in time to join an Adult Education program that had us going to Germany to visit amazing museums and even some dig sites. Sprechen Sie deutsch? Yeah, that’s another no for me too. Anyway, the Bavarian countryside was absolutely beautiful and we enjoyed amazing weather throughout! We were even there for Oktoberfest. Prosit! The best part, and to me even better than beer, is staying at Schloss Eggersberg. My German may not be great, but one word I do know is schloss, or castle! My room was in the top corner of the castle in what would be considered a servants’ room. A grown man could spread his arms and touch both sides of the room! Looks like being 8.5 inches tall is paying off for once.

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With the program, one of the amazing sites we visited was Solnhofen, home of what they call a Lagerstatte, a site filled with wonderfully preserved fossils. They have found over 500 species in this one site, but the coolest thing (at least what I think) is that this is where the Archaeopteryx was first discovered, the earliest bird known to fossil record!

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We also visited the Messel Pit Fossil Site. Man, I had some fun here. This place is rich in fossils, including being where the much debated Ida was discovered about 30 years ago. Whether or not Ida is the missing link, Messel has provided the world with tens of thousands of amazing fossils. And an awesome replica of a Masillamys, which patrons are probably not encouraged to ride. But I did anyway. Woohoo, ride ‘em cowboy!

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After a week of enjoying the German countryside and exploring and learning about different fossil sites, it was back to HMNS again to prepare for my next trip. I can’t wait to tell you about my next adventure!

You can find Archie and the whole Adopt-a-Dino family in the HMNS Museum Store. Drop by and take one home!

Editor’s Note: Karen is the Assistant Birthday Party Manager for the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Mark Your Calendars for these events happening this week (12/1-12/7) at HMNS

Bust out your planners, calendars, and PDAs (if you are throwback like that), it’s time to mark your calendars for the HMNS events of this week!

Go behind-the-scenes of our offsite collections storage facility or tour one of our exhibits in the five behind-the-scenes tours offered this week, sharpen your survival skills (and an arrowhead and stone knife) in the adult education class ‘Creating Stone Age Tools’, and explore India with the last World Trekkers event of the year – this week at HMNS.

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View shrunken heads from the Amazon up close in our Behind-the-Scenes tour of our Offsite Collections Storage facility. 

Behind-the-Scenes Offsite Collections Storage
Monday, December 1
1:30 p.m. & 6:00 p.m.
Millions of artifacts and specimens are housed at the Museum’s offsite collections storage. For the first time ever, HMNS is allowing the public to tour this facility. Participants will see old favorites no longer on display, like the shrunken heads from the Amazon, and new acquisitions that have not been seen by the public yet, including a giant African elephant. This truly behind-the-scenes tour of the museum collections will be led by Lisa Rebori, HMNS VP of collections. Participants will meet at HMNS and ride van to the offsite facility. This program is limited to adults and children age 12 and older. Reservations are required in advance. Space is very limited. Click here for tickets.

Behind-the-Scenes – Fabergé: From A Snowflake To An Iceberg
Wednesday, December 3
6:00 p.m.
This new installation of the McFerrin Collection includes over 150 new objects. The exhibition is designed to tell the history of Imperial Russia through the works of the Fabergé master craftsman and highlight the different types of items made by Fabergé – from showy fashion statements to opulent utilitarian items – all made with Fabergé’s hallmark beauty and precision. Tour this remarkable collection with HMNS master docents. Click here for tickets.

Behind-the-Scenes – Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife
Wednesday, December 3
6:00 p.m.
Walk through the different biomes of Texas that feature the flora and fauna of these distinct areas that are unique to Texas. Learn of the animals that are featured in the exhibition – some who flourish in these areas, and others who are endangered or extinct. Museum master docents will be your guide through the new Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife. Click here for tickets.

Behind-the-Scenes – Shark!
Thursday, December 4
6:00 p.m.
Learn about the important roles sharks play in ecosystems and about their unique physical characteristics in the Shark! touch tank experience. Museum biologists will lead this special after-hours, hands-on tour. Click here for tickets.

Behind-the-Scenes – Samurai: The Way of the Warrior
Thursday, December 4
6:00 p.m.
Witness the exquisite objects related to the legendary Samurai warriors of Japan in the special exhibition Samurai: The Way of the Warrior. Museum master docents will lead you through the collection that includes full suits of armor, helmets, swords, sword-hilts, and saddles, as well as exquisite objects intended for more personal use such as lacquered writing boxes, incense trays and foldable chairs. Click here for tickets.

Class – Creating Stone Age Tools
Thursday, December 4
6:00 p.m.
Discover how antler, stone and bone can be used to fashion a Paleolithic survival knife through proper percussion and pressure methods. Learn how to make an arrowhead by pressure alone and a simple stone knife using traditional hand tools. Your lithic art is yours to keep for your collection. Paleolithic archaeologist Gus Costa will teach the prehistoric skills needed to master the ancient art of stone tool making. All materials, tools and safety equipment will be provided. Participants must be at least 15 years of age. Click here for tickets.

Orion First Flight Viewing
George Observatory
Thursday, December 4
4:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. 
The George Observatory will be free to the general public for the viewing of Orion’s first flight. 

World Trekkers – India
Friday, December 5
6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Leave the luggage at home, you can explore India right from HMNS’ Grand Hall with World Trekkers this December! Our last World Trekkers event of this year will transport you to India with Bollywood dance performances, rangoli display, photo ops with cultural icons, traditional Indian cuisine, and much more! Click here for more info. 
Also, don’t miss the screening of the Disney Classic The Jungle Book at World Trekkers at 7:00 p.m.

Holiday Trunk Show – Rebecca Lankford 
Saturday, December 6
12:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. 
Favorite local designer Rebecca Lankford is back! With hand cast metals, fine leathers, and a casual take on gems like raw diamonds and South Sea pearls, Rebecca’s designs have earned her a devoted Houston following.Click here for more information on upcoming trunk shows. 

A year in the life: Personal photos of the mayhem and magic that is working at HMNS

The end of one calendar year and the beginning of the next is always a good time to do a little tidying of your personal life. Calendars get replaced, inboxes get emptied and, for me, extra bits on my phone get dumped. So, under the auspices of cleaning out my phone, I came across some totally work-related photos I would like to share with you. They are weird, but so is working for a science-based non-profit.

For those that know us, Dave (Temple — HMNS’ Associate Curator of Anthropology and my husband) and I make sense. I am a little bit like the Martha Stewart of dead things and Dave is more like the Indiana Jones of Dimetrodons (although he would argue that he is the Alabama Dave of Dimetrodons). Perhaps with these photos you will get to know us — and the Museum — a bit better.

Enjoy!

Zombie Nicole. We run an overnight program here, and we like Halloween. ‘Nuff said.

Zombie Nicole

Chewbacca getting his fortune told.

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Dave versus the tufted-ear Marmoset.

Marmoset Dave

True fact: Green-cheeked conures like watching Dr. Bakker.

bakker birdies

This is the kind of thing that can be found in our freezer. Crickets don’t cook themselves, people.

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Eww.

HUMAN TEETH!

Me and Bobby McGee hanging out and waiting for our ride. We had an appointment with Dr. Dan that day.

Taxidermy Nicole

Making new friends during the Paleo Hall installation.

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Granted this photo is a little blurry, but check out that tiny frog!  There is a dime just visible in my hand for scale.

Teeny Tiny Froggie!

Dave at an ecological research station in Brazil. The park ranger there is referred to as the “Chuck Norris of Brazil.”

Brazil Dave

Pitcher plants = Awesome.

Pitcher plants

New officemate. Likes to give hugs with his mouth.

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Extra! Extra! Our dinosaur bath makes front page news and Dr. Bakker’s back in town

Check, check it out:

The Morian Hall of Paleontology gets some front-page love

That’s right, the long-deceased residents of our Morian Hall of Paleontology got some front page attention Tuesday after a weekend cleaning courtesy of Associate Curator of Paleontology David Temple and artist-cum-dino-installer John Barber. You think cleaning your living room is hard? Try cleaning dinosaur bones. It takes delicacy, focus and a steady hand. Just listen to Houston Chronicle reporter Allan Turner’s account of the meticulous process:

In their arsenal are a compressor capable of blasting air at 60 pounds per square inch and its 6-foot wand, a tool designed for the purpose by Barber.

For the most delicate work, the men use makeup brushes, as well as brushes designed for the application of wallpaper paste and gold leaf.

Our hall has seen 350,000 people since June and accumulated plenty of dirt and residue from dander, dust mites and clothing fibers. In order to keep our specimens looking spotless, Temple undertakes several three to four after-hours cleaning sessions per year.

Want to learn more about the inhabitants of our Morian Hall of Paleontology — and how they came to perish? Our distinguished Curator of Paleontology, Dr. Bob Bakker, hosts a lecture on Tuesday, Oct. 30 called “Life After the Dinosaurs: Darwinian Saga of the Mammalia.

Bakker will explain how climate change helped mammals overtake dinosaurs approximately 65 million years ago. To purchase tickets, click here.