On the first day of HMNS…a new exhibit debuts

Ring-oil lamp, 1st century B.C.E
On display in The Birth of Christianity:
A Jewish
Story
starting today.

The Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Story, a new special exhibition, makes its world premiere today, on the first day of HMNS. And that’s just the beginning – we’ve got 11 more days coming up, with great ideas for family fun this holiday season. You can check them all out now, at our spiffy new 12 Days of HMNS web site – or watch them roll out here until Christmas Eve.

For the first day of HMNS, we’re featuring our brand new exhibition, The Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Story – opening today. In the exhibit, you’ll embark on an adventure that spans the three centuries leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ, and the first decades after that – as the new religion of Christianity began to take shape.

Through a diverse array of artifacts, experience Jewish life during the reigns of Alexander the Great and the infamous King Herod. Return to the days of the Jewish War against the Romans and the stirring story of Masada, and learn the significance of Jewish burial customs. Finally, observe the dawn of the Christian Era. Along the way, marvel at ancient scrolls, objects and artifacts – such as one of the original Dead Sea Scrolls; original New Testament manuscripts, including an excerpt from the Gospel of Luke that contains the Christmas story; a large-scale, stone model of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period; and much more.

We’ve also developed an optional audio guide to go along with the exhibit, that allows you to explore what you see in greater depth. The voice of Flavius Josephus, a 1st century Jewish historian who survived the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem and lived during the development of early Christianity, is your guide through the exhibit. You can hear a preview of the audio guide here.

And, in case you missed it in our earlier post – in the video below, you can see guest curator Matthias Henze discuss how the artifacts gathered in this premiere exhibition are “the closest we can get to the historical Jesus,” how important it is to understand the “Jewish roots of early Christianity;” and the many commonalities these two religious traditions share to this day.

Learn more about The Birth of Christianity: A Jewish Story:
Ancient artifacts are delicate – but they’re sometimes very heavy. See how the exhibit came together.
Take a preview Walk Through the Exhibition online.
Get a sneak-listen of the new audio guide, developed specially for this exhibition, and based on the latest archaeological evidence.

Game Day: Moving a 6-ton fossil

Last week a colleague commented in her post on this blog that she’s ridiculously excited about the debut of Leonardo. The entire Houston Museum of Natural Science team echoes her sentiments.

It’s been a challenging couple of weeks since Ike’s wrath came upon our city. The museum was closed to the public for about five days due to the storm’s aftermath.  We were left without power; therefore, the opening date of Dinosaur Mummy CSI: Cretaceous Science Investigation was delayed until Sept. 26 (originally scheduled to open Sept.19).

Now we’re up and running and it’s only 23 hrs. and about 10 minutes until visitors are able to see Leonardo on display. It took a lot to get him here—a special palette; a very heavy fork lift; an air cushioned tractor trailer; a crane; along with our very own dynamic paleontology staff and outstanding support from supreme moving specialists. As Dr. Bakker says, “Moving a fossil is like moving a piece of art.”

In this video, we thought we would give you a rare peek of what David Temple calls “Game Day,”— moving Leonardo, a 77 million-year-old adult duckbilled dinosaur, from our off-site facility to the museum.

Check out the other videos in this series:
The mummified dinosaur Leonardo: too good to be true?
Mapping a dinosaur with Dr. Robert Bakker.
First in a paleontologist’s toolkit: glue.
Or, check out our channel on YouTube for even more video.

Glue on, glue off – putting a dinosaur back together again

The museum has been open again for a few days now after Ike wiped us all out for a while. And – we’re back at work on the world premiere exhibit Dinosaur Mummy CSI: Cretaceous Science Investigation. Having gotten to know Leonardo so well over the past few months, I’m ridiculously excited about his debut on Sept. 26 – I can’t wait to see what all of you think. The exhibit is being built as I write this, and from even a preliminary walk through, I think you’re truly going to be blown away by this extraordinary fossil. 

Leonardo is so well preserved that you can literally see what he looked like alive – right down to the texture of his skin. As written in the June 2005 Newsweek article that reported the find, “it evokes, far better than any mounted skeleton, a real animal that lived and died.”

Not only can you see what he looked like – you’ll also see inside. Leonardo has preserved, internal organs and the exhibit presents the results of high tech scanning of the fossil.

Our paleontology team is also working on the fossilized remains of another hadrosaur, named Peanut, that was found on the same ranch as Leonardo – and you’ll be able to see their progress as they continue to work on this fossil in the exhibit. (You may recognize Peanut from our earlier video, Mapping A Dinosaur with Dr. Bob Bakker.)

As you might expect from a fossil specimen that has been subjected to massive geologic forces over millions of years, there is some repair work to be done before it can be displayed. In the video below, associate curator of paleontology, David Temple, discusses one of a paleontologist’s most frequently-used tools: glue.

PS – We posted this video on YouTube before the storm – and one of our favorite bloggers gave us a bit of a hard time about the subject matter. I laughed when I read it (touché, sir!) but it also made me wonder – what do you think? The video was created from a bunch of footage shot in one day as our paleo department was initially working on the Peanut fossil, and we thought it was an interesting look into one of the tools paleontologists use – but is it interesting to you? And what other kinds of things would you like a behind-the-scenes look into? Leave a comment to let us know!
Check out the other videos in this series:
The mummified dinosaur Leonardo: too good to be true?
Mapping a dinosaur with Dr. Robert Bakker.
Or, check out our channel on YouTube for even more video.

National Geographic features HMNS and Leonardo

If you’ve been reading the blog, you’re up to speed on our Paleontology Department’s recent exploits in Montana. They were there to prospect around the site where Leonardo – the famous mummified dinosaur that will go on world premiere display at HMNS this fall – was discovered. And, they found several new sites, helped set up Malta’s newest dinosaur museum – where Leonardo will be on display after his visit to Houston.

Today, National Geographic posted a very cool story about Leonardo and our upcoming exhibit – it includes footage of the Montana expedition as well as interviews with Dr. Bakker and HMNS President Joel A. Bartsch. Check it out here – and let us know what you think!